Dear Mama Africa,
Just take a moment to imagine the sheer number of your children suffering in silence…
The tightly shut constrictive cage that society has built around the topic of mental health within African communities and spaces has left many people, young and old, feeling much like they’re pacing about a tightly spaced room. Without any doors or windows, without any air or light. Without any room to breathe, to be, to feel or to grow. Mama Africa, your children are dying. Please, hear me when I say this, because I say it with every fibre in my body standing firm in conviction and I say this with a heart swelling with a stew of anger, sadness and concern; Depression is a very real thing. Anxiety is a very real thing. Eating disorders are very real things. Addiction is a very real thing. Mental. Illnesses. Are. Very. Real. Things (and no Zambians, it doesn’t all boil down to the presence of a possessive demon shimmying around and trying to hijack your soul) Mental health related afflictions boil down to a combination and culmination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. I cannot stress the gravity of there needing to be a shift in the paradigm- a major change in the way that mental health is perceived and dealt with, within our homes and our hearts.
Mama Africa, hear me when I say this, for I say it with trembling hands but a heart made of steel- we are neither weak nor lesser for being the ways that we are.
The pervasive stigmas and pre-existing notions and beliefs surrounding mental health illnesses, not only in Zambia but in a handful of African countries and communities all over the globe, have manifested into big. nasty, mean looking wrought iron barriers that more often that not keep many people from openly expressing their feelings and experiences and thus getting help. It’s no secret that the experience as and experiences of members of the African community can be anything short of hectic. For example, I feel there’s a widely accepted, socially constructed ‘one-size fits all’ mould which most of us have been conditioned to think we should automatically fit into. Though, most of us relentlessly tire ourselves out trying to morph into uncomfortable, unfamiliar shapes and squeeze into spaces that aren’t made for us. The existence of this mould is incredibly toxic and harmful- it translates into us not being able to fully and unapologetically be ourselves; to love the things, the people and the places that we do. So it’s really no surprise a mixture of stresses and strains stir up and build up inside our chests. The cherry on the top of it all- is the lack of vast and open plateaus and channels of communication to which we can let out our cries. It seems it’s almost taboo to be raw and honest about the things that matter the most to us but customary to kneel down and respectfully greet rippling echoes of noiselessness. It should not be that way. Mama Africa- you need to turn the dial and attune your ears and hear the waves of tears and fears crashing against your shores.
Dear Mama Africa, just take a moment to imagine the sheer number of your children suffering in silence.
Love and light,