What is mental health to you? Is it whether or not your medulla oblongata is functioning right? OR, is it about your willpower to go through life?
A number of us believe that as Africans, we are born immune to some of these mental health problems. The recent saga surrounding Qute Kaye really brought forward a bunch of memories; personally I could consider it dejavu.
The past 10 years of my life have been a combination of living with an addict and recovering from the trauma of living with an addict. (Addiction can come up as a result of negative mental health.) These years gave me a feel of the lack of mental health knowledge within the country.
Many people choose to look at addiction as a curse or better said as “oyo bamuloga”. I am not one to bash the traditional spiritual realm and try to convince everyone that it can never be the cause of anyone’s problems. I am only pointing out that it is not the only cause.
There were many jokes being made about Qute’s situation, making reference to whatever type of drugs he was using, or his general appearance. In my opinion I found the jokes and everyone participating in fuelling the jokes, very immature.
The truth of the matter is, a number of us have relatives or friends that are going through downward spirals in their lives that could either lead them into a similar path or even lead them 6ft under.
But because we spend more time acting blind to their problems and ridiculing others going through it, we end up losing more people to the addiction problem than we really should be.
There are so many things that push people into using drugs and then push them further into abusing the drugs. Things like pressure from society, expectations from our families and personal inadequacies are a few of the reasons people look at drugs as an escape route.
Having lived with a father that struggled with addiction, it wasn’t easy finding what exactly it was that pushed him into that corner. So many people always came forward with their theories and hypotheses on what could have caused the problem but nothing ever really made sense.
But one thing that stood out during his entire battle, was the stigma. The stigma surrounding people that are battling addictions is real.
People avoid being associated with someone that is going through the troubles of addiction, rather than helping the person come out of it. It is not an easy journey trying to help an addict; it is very draining and traumatic too, but that doesn’t mean we act like nothing is wrong.
Imagine how far down the pit Qute fell to feel like he had to steal to survive. Truth is; there are a number of people in the same situation as he is. If we took more time to pay attention, maybe we could change more people’s stories.
Rehabilitation goes beyond just feeding well, taking more baths and swallowing medicine to suppress the craving; it finds the initial problem and better ways to overcome the problem.
There may be a textbook definition on how to identify an addict but there is no single textbook definition on how to snap out of it.
Therefore I implore you to take more time to appreciate mental health and to be your brother’s keepers if we are to make any progress on this matter.
The writer is a graduate of Petroleum and Geoscience Production from Makerere University, budding writer with much love for reading. She has a soft spot for the welfare those closest to her and she’s a great listener.