If you are part of the “People who commit suicide are cowards” squad then this post is not for you. I’m glad that where I come from mental health issues are not considered as much of a taboo as back in the day. Back in the day these issues were usually rubbished and families and loved ones had to deal with the aftermath. Whatever you believe or opinion is when it comes to mental health it affects all of us. Mental health is not all about suicide and depression, the symptoms and circumstances of mental health concerns come in nearly unlimited variation. What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candour, and more unashamed conversation.
Topping the UK official Afrobeats chart, Libianca’s hit “People” struck quite the conversation on social media. With her raw vocals, the 22 year old singer takes us on a journey and tells the story of anxiety and depression. Bagging 32 million streams, the visuals to the song also paint a picture of mental health issues like depression can affect anyone and with those close not even noticing. In the video Libianca is making dinner and snacks, getting ready to host friends yet she doesn’t look okay or feel okay. Sadly everyone is caught up in their own lives and business that they don’t even notice. Shall we talk about the shock when celebrities and others who seem to have it on lockdown commit suicide or open up about their struggle with mental health issues? People always assume those who look picture perfect or the social butterflies always have this life thing on lockdown, but is it really the case?
I lost a friend to suicide, a few days after I had gone on a lunch date with him and on that day he was wearing a perfect smile and boy did we not laugh the whole time we were together. If depression was something that could easily be seen by the physical eye, then maybe just maybe I could have reached out and had him talk about it with me. Could I have been able to get him some sort of help? Would he still be here and would we still be catching up on random days and laughing till our tummies hurt? I am not sure how things would have turned out but one thing I know is I wish he had reached out or at least I should have checked in and maybe just maybe he would still be here. Now I wonder if when we are “chilling”, having lunch, going on trips or even having a chat with people around us we take time to check-in and find out how they are.
As everyone is always trying to figure their own life out, sometimes we miss it when the next person is struggling. Depression is silent but sometimes there are signs and symptoms. Some withdraw from social situations, they stop participating in activities they normally enjoyed, feelings of worthlessness, sadness and hopelessness, anxiety and thoughts of suicide or death. But even with these symptoms it could still be hard to tell that someone is struggling. Hence the need to regularly check on your people. Checking on your people is one thing but above all be kind. Even when you do not understand it, there is need to create a safe space to freely talk about their feelings. Like Fred Rogers once said, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.”
It is a cold world out there with mean beings but there is still a little bit of kindness out there and we all can do better.
“If we start being honest about our pain, our anger and our shortcomings instead of pretending they don’t exist , then maybe we will leave the world a better place than we found it.”- Russel Wilson.
One of my late friends, Dr Nyarai Paweni always used to start a conversation with “How are you arriving today?” This was so she could figure out where your head is at and know how to navigate the conversation or even your feelings and hers too. She was big on check-ins and from her I have learnt that, almost all of us are fighting a battle that we hardly talk about. It might be the frustration that comes with day to day hassles or even deeper issues but even with 8 billion people in the world we all need to know that we are not alone and there is that one or two people who got you. Be the friend that even when someone calls you at 4am and they are even too sad or overwhelmed to say something, you are able to listen to their silence until they fall asleep. It’s okay to think that constantly checking on people can make you seem overbearing, but rather that than have loved ones think that no one cares or notices. Many people go undiagnosed and are unwilling to discuss their mental health. Many fear judgement or the dismissal comments which come in the form of, “Oh just get over it”, or being told someone has it worse.
Reach out, not because you are weak or expect the next person to give you an immediate solution, but so that you can at least alleviate some pressure and do this life thing with someone else. Checking in on your loved ones might not eliminate mental health issues right now but trust it does go a long way. People appreciate kindness and people checking up on them. A quick message to check if someone is okay, stopping by their house or office are just some of the little things that will brighten someone’s day. It is the little things that matter the most. I hope that we notice those who are bleeding in silence. Check on those social butterflies, the strong ones who seem to have it all figured out and the ones who seem to always be there for everyone else. When on a sunny day the sun is only on the outside and your heart and soul are gloomy, I hope you find the strength to reach out. I hope you remember that whatever you are feeling is all a part of being human and reaching out is not burdening anyone. I hope when you reach out, someone does hold their hand out to you.
Shout out to everyone who hasn’t felt okay lately, but has been getting up every day and refusing to quit. Might not be today, tomorrow or the day after but it going to be okay.