Are you there God? It’s me —-

Today the bottom fell open. Hope cascaded out, joy tumbled suit. The constant flow of tears is only interrupted by raging thoughts of fear, anguish and self-loathing.The walls have closed in and there is darkness all around…

If these distressing thoughts are foreign to you, know that they colonize the minds of people you know and love. No, they are not just sad. And no, they just can’t SNAP out of it. They are depressed! Depression? What depression? “ I beg stop talking about this bougie condition that afflicts the pampered and the lazy.” This is the response of many people, especially Africans and other minority groups who like to believe depression and other forms of mental illnesses do not exist. The naked truth is some of our most beloved find themselves living in one of the varied spectrum of mental disorder.

Major depressive disorder is a condition that can be chronic, recurrent or short term. People suffering from the condition often find themselves in deep despair. They may become withdrawn from social situations and may find that they lack motivation to do things that they previously enjoyed. They may suffer from insomnia, guilt, hopelessness, and other negatives thoughts that can lead them to harm themselves or others. Before it advances to that stage it is important to reach out for professional help that is available in the form of medication and or therapy.

Bipolar disorder is a long-term condition characterized by elevated mood swings or manic-depressive disorder. People who suffer from bipolar disorder may experience episodes of delirious happiness, unpredictable fury or sadness combined with periods of ‘normal’ or stable temperaments. Extreme forms of bipolar can lead to delusions and hallucinations. However it has also been associated with creativity and accomplishments. Some people who have been rumored to be bipolar are writer Virginia Woolf and artist Van Gogh.

Schizophrenia like other mental disorders can be difficult to detect. It often starts post adolescence but there have been rare situations where it begins in childhood. This disorder is feared for the extreme elements of hallucinations and delusions. Individuals who suffer from schizophrenia may withdraw from social activity, they sometimes hear voices in their head that instigate actions that they otherwise would not have engaged in. Schizophrenia may also manifest in bizarre paranoia which may make them think others are plotting to harm them. Medication and therapy can help individuals with schizophrenia become functional and productive parts of society.

Although there are no laboratory tests to diagnose mental disorder, talking about the realities of the condition reduces the stigma and shame that has long been associated with it. Some individuals are so overcome by these negative thoughts that they kill themselves. "Hush now, don't tell what happened."  Last week, my mum said a friend's son 'stumbled' from the 4th floor to his death. Really? He was acutely depressed…People who live with mental disorder do not belong on the streets or secluded parts of our homes. Their inability to cope with changes, grief, or loss does not mean that they are crazy or nuts. They are our sisters, brothers, parents and friends who deserve support not scorn.


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  1. It's true! Minority communities, particularly Africans, do not like to address the possibility that depression  exists, let alone that it could lead one to suicide. In the end, it all comes down to shame and a perceived failure on the family's part, doesn't it? We put SUCH  a premium on family participation in everything we do. After all, if the person suffering mental anguish had the full support of the family, they would never kill themselves, would they? Hence, your mum's friend's son "stumbled" to his death and did not deliberately kill himself. Suicide would make the family culpable. 

  2. I guess in the end it must be the sense of blame and shame that keeps so many silent.

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