Mind My Mind: Time to talk mental health in Kenya

A primary school kid recently committed suicide after being dethroned from the top position in his class. Kenyans talked about it for a few hours then went back to worrying about ‘more important’ things like Chilobae and Moses Kuria’s current utterings.

According to the World Health Organization report of 2016, close to 800,000 deaths annually are from suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people of ages 15 to 29. Despite the startling statistics, the world seems more preoccupied with politics and little else matters.

 

With literacy levels of 85.9% and unemployment rates of 22.2% among the Kenyan youth, it is not surprising that poverty and unemployment are the major causes of depression which often ends up in suicide.

The society does not help matters. It is quick to call one petty, not strong enough, and remind those suffering from depression that everyone has their problems to handle and such is life. Mental illness is often associated with witchcraft, curses and drug abuse. This makes many people prefer to suffer in silence rather than speak out.

Stephen Siloma, an inspirational writer, and poet, has battled epilepsy for 10 years now. He understands the stigma and stereotyping against people battling mental illnesses in our society.

One day, while traveling to Nairobi, Siloma came across a woman convulsing by the roadside. She had a note tucked on her waist reading that she had epilepsy and had been abandoned by family because of her condition. Siloma, therefore, felt inclined to help speak up against the discrimination. He came up with a movement, Mind My Mind, to create awareness on mental health and fight stigma against people who the society have judged doomed.

Mind My Mind movement

Siloma came up with the name Mind My Mind to draw people’s attention that not only one’s life’s successes and physical attributes matter but also their mental well-being.

Mind My Mind movement is a group of young people who have been directly or indirectly affected by mental illnesses. They strive to create awareness on mental health using their talents and skills. Mind My Mind is a movement whose mission is to end the stigma surrounding mental health in Kenya. They seek to have a Kenya where people suffering from mental health will feel appreciated and respected.

The movement aims to create awareness on illnesses and help mobilize youth to speak out on their mental illnesses. It hopes to give them the appreciation they so much need. M3Movement will create forums through which the youth can explore their talents and skills to express themselves.

The forums will also be an avenue to steer the participants away from drugs and alcohol, often seen as an escape from the pain of depression. But you can’t help the victim without educating their tormentor, so Siloma and team will also sensitization on mental health and take part in CSR activities.

Mind My Mind hopes to engage youth skilled in different areas- writers, poets, spoken word artists, photographers, artists etc on projects on mental health. The only requirement will be to have a passion for the mental well-being of your fellow.

Speak out
People are often gagged from opening up on their pains and seeking help on social media often by cyber bullies Photo/M3Movement

The movement is looking to break away from the ‘keep your problems off social media’ tradition. They hope to create a new environment on social media where those in suffering can reach out. Social media shouldn’t be a place where you live a fake fancy life while you die slowly on the inside. Through hashtags such as #MyUntoldStory, users will open up about the pain inside of them. We can only pray that cyber bullies won’t pile up on the misery of such people.

However, top on their activities list is photoshoot sessions on depression and suicide. A picture is worth a thousand words after all. The photos will help push the agenda to a wider audience. They will also hold photo exhibitions.

If you want to be part of the movement and contribute towards addressing mental health in Kenya, you can contact the movement through the email info.mindmymind@gmail.com. Remember to include your phone number and area of specialization. Writers, poets, spoken word artists, photographers, artists, graphic designers, scriptwriters, videographers, web designers, software developers, all are welcome. Let’s work to reduce the number of suicide rates in Kenya.

Here are the links to M3 Movement photoshoots; Facebook album and M3Movement.

You can also read Siloma’s amazing poems at http://silomart.co.ke. His inspirational writings can be found at http://silomasays.com.

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