The Mental Wellness Series 

Let me tell you a story… There’s this guy who works at the gym I go to; whenever I walk in, he will always ask with a smile…”How are you doing today Sharon?” I know this may be a formality but his tone of voice always suggests otherwise. I always tell him I’m doing alright and then go ahead to find out how he’s doing on his end. As expected, he replies saying all is well, thanks me for asking and we both go about our business.

However, in all honesty, on some days, I usually want to tell him “I’m glad you asked. I’m not having a great time. In truth, I’m one chip away from breaking apart, mostly because in my experience, people only want to know you’re doing well, enough to continue with their day without inconvenience and as a result, I have been practising my “I’m alrights” but not today …” 

Have you ever experienced something like this?

We do so well pretending we are alright, holding back a mountain of problems…just waiting for the right person to allow us room to let go and talk it out…to feel seen and heard. But these opportunities rarely present themselves because we all get stuck in our heads thinking about our own issues and forget to extend some grace to others under the guise of having bigger problems.  

Which is why lately, I have challenged myself to listen more than I talk. To ask questions more than I give answers and to be honest when people ask me how I’m doing because sometimes that question, in the right tone of voice, with a nice smile, is all that is needed to remind someone that they will be alright despite all that’s happening in their world. 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, a lot has happened that has taken a toll on people’s mental health, especially the youth. Data from the Ministry of Health shows that almost 500 people are reported to have died by suicide between March and June this year(2021), more than the whole of 2020, according to the Kenyan Police.

In 2021, the youngest person to take their life in Kenya was nine years old; the oldest 76. The 483 deaths recorded between March and June this year(2021) were a marked increase on the annual average of about 320 cases, theMinistry of Health reported. This then begs the question; 

What is The Government Doing to Help Those in Need of Mental Health Support? 

In commemoration of The World Suicide Prevention Day 2020, The National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus mentioned that The Ministry of Health is in the process of developing a Nationwide Suicide Prevention Strategy and Program (2021-2026) in line with the WHO guidelines. Currently, Niskize and Kamili Mental Health are among the top institutions in Kenya championing Mental Health Awareness by offering free counselling services to all those in need. 

What could this look like at the office?

At Akili Network, the marketing team has morning briefings. During these sessions, team members talk about how they are feeling (genuinely), what’s on their plate for the day and who they would need assistance from. This creates a safe space for people to talk about what they are struggling with professionally and sometimes personally. It also creates an opportunity for tasks to be distributed/delegated to avoid a situation where someone feels overwhelmed. In addition, it serves as a bonding session for the team.

Let’s take the initiative to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper; to be intentional about our “How-are-you’s”, to be open to listening to people but also to keep in mind that you cannot pour from an empty cup so remember to take care of yourself first before anyone/anything else. 

That said, how are you really doing today?

By: Sharon Raburu.

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