Have you ever been depressed for a period of time after mourning the loss of a loved one (or watched someone else do so) and becoming uninterested in food or hobbies that you would usually enjoy? If you answered yes, you or a loved one was experiencing poor mental health!
Even though mental health awareness is growing in Tanzania, many people are still unaware of mental health issues. Even among those who are conscious, many still believe that ‘we Africans do not have mental health problems’, that the essence of our life experiences prevents us from developing mental health, even though these life experiences have a significant impact on our mental health. And this is because of the lack of clear understanding about what mental health really is. I am here today to let you know that every human being whether mentally healthy or not has Mental health!
There is often a lot of confusion and misconceptions about what we mean when we talk about mental health. Most people immediately begin to think about mental health problems or mental illness – but this is only one side of the coin. Mental Health is not mental illness.
Mental Health (also known as mental wellbeing) is our ability to deal with daily circumstances and life. Having good mental health helps us to be resilient, allowing us to deal with difficulties. This is not to say that we will not have bad days or feel bad when anything bad happens; it just means that these are more likely to be how someone reacts to different situations, and we will manage to cope through them.
Struggling with poor mental health is when we have trouble controlling our moods and feelings, we are exhausted and unable to deal with the problems and difficulties we face. For example, you could have poor mental health if you are in a bad relationship, job searching, someone you like ghosted you, or bereavement.
Mental health/Mental wellbeing is like a vertical line that goes up and down in our lives, depending on what is going on in our lives. Throughout our lives, we will all experience periods of "good" mental health and "poor mental health." When things do not go as planned, it is natural to feel nervous, anxious, or upset – everyone experiences pressure at some point in their lives.
So, what is mental illness then? …
Mental illnesses refer to a variety of disorders normally are diagnosed such as Anxiety Disorders, Depression, Bipolar, Personality Disorder, Schizophrenia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Eating Disorders and so on. These affects our thoughts, behaviours and moods, are frequently linked with distress and/or problems functioning in social, family or work settings.
But here is where it gets tricky: you can be diagnosed with mental illness while still being in good mental health. This means you have been diagnosed with depression and are experiencing symptoms, but you are still in control of them. This means you can keep your mental condition under control when in treatment, which means your symptoms are well-managed and do not have a significant effect on your day-to-day life. Having a mental illness and poor mental health means that you struggle to cope. This suggests you are often depressed, unhappy, or experiencing other negative feelings, and you are unable to cope with small issues or sudden changes. This is often influenced by mental illness, making day-to-day life difficult. See image below
Saying all that mental health is not something we should be ashamed of because it is associated with mental illness, as we now are aware that mental health is something that we all have, and it is affected by our daily life experiences. And if you are having issues with your mental health, never be ashamed to seeking help. Cheers!
Disclaimer: I am not a Mental Health Expert, but I have received mental health training in the past and thought I could share some knowledge on the subject.