By Tsepiso Theko
October is the month of mental health awareness. A man rampaging through trash or a dirty woman dancing in the streets is a face we have attaced to mental illness.
This month is dedicated to educating people that mental illness wears different masks. It is comes in form of depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, PTSD and other conditions it masks.
Maybe these big words make it difficult to attach mental illnesses to our everyday feelings. This is because we assume that there is or should always be a particular cause for these conditions.
It’s only few cases that mental illness or conditions are inherited. It is mostly results of social, psychological and environmental factors. Stressful situations also referred to as situational depression, death, drug abuse, childhood traumas can also lead to breakdowns even though they happened long ago.
In most places in our society like the townships, mental illness is often narrowed down to a mad man and a mad woman only. A man away from society.
We detach ourselves from people struggling mentally.
This accompanied by myths like a person is bewitched or they were too educated. We have heard those stories that almost made one scared of being too smart because of fear that they might end up crazy.
However, these people did not say or rather did not know the anxieties in university corridors such as academic exclusion, financial exclusion and academic pressure.
So the only thing that could explain a smart man who went to university coming back home mentally ill was that his smartness eventually drove him mad. What else could?
This month seeks to create that awareness, that there is no face for mental illness. Small triggers eventually drive one crazy. All our experiences, present struggles, anxieties squash themselves into this one organ and that is the mind, which needs care.
It is also certainly not a poor man’s disease. People get questions like “but your life is going well, why would you need a therapist” OR “You are not mad, why would you check in to a psychiatric hospital?” Those are the misconceptions we get that suggest that mental illness starts as or is always extreme.
This mental awareness month also seeks to erase the stigma around mental illness and psychiatric institutions. People are more concerned that people will think they are crazy than going to check on their Mental health.
According to experts, mental health is as important as physical health if not more. This is to say you don’t have to be mad for a mind check.