Part 1/May 5.2019
May is Mental Health awareness month observed in the USA since 1949. It is also commonly referred to as “Mental Health Month” (www.NAMI.org).
The reason for raising awareness if for destigmatizing mental Health (MH), which sometimes is a matter of life and death.
We can no longer refer to individuals with mental health illness as “Mad”, “Crazy, “Muguruki, “Mwenda wazimu.”
or as Americans say “Gone Banana.” Just as much as we do not place such labels on individuals who are managing Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, Asthma, Cancer, AIDs, and so forth. We need to reach a place in our lives where when we notice someone is struggling with MH issues, we will nudge them to seek help.
Someone has given an illustration to the fact that, if a colleague shows up for work every day coughing, someone would ask, “By the way have you seen a doctor for that nasty cough?” Or another example, if we see a person drowning, would we cry out for help? Would we give a helping hand or would we watch in shame and silence?
Let us discuss briefly about: Definition of Mental Health as commonly known to health care providers and as it is referred to in scientific research. Most MH disorders are not permanent and treatment is possible. Although there are
many causes of MH issues, for the purposes of Diaspora community, we will look into 2 causes of depression, mainly (a) Genetic, (b) Environmental. Then explore briefly the relationship between depression and suicide. Finally share some resources on how to access help in order to manage MH issues.
Mental Health: Refers to a person’s condition with regard to their emotional, psychological and social well-being.
If affects how we think, feel and act. While working with Children and Adolescents, I coined the simple formula that T=FAB (thoughts equals to feelings, attitudes and behaviors). Treatment–
Most MH disorders are not permanent and this makes us believe and share that when individuals seek and obtain appropriate treatment, there is healing for the body, mind and soul. “Beloved I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 1:2).
In the past 7 months we have discussed that there are several factors that cause depression. We have come to understand that depression is caused by an interaction of internal & external factors in the body’s chemistry with physical factors like health and heredity.
The 2 of interest this month are Genetic and environment.
(1) Genetic causes which some people refer to as generational curses, which need to be rebuked and delivered from demons. Family Therapists might call
them generational patterns that need to be interfered or interrupted with, for example families with 50% chances of having Diabetes. What would happen
if the current generation changes their eating habits? How would this affect the next generation. When we speak with our medical doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists, they are likely to say that a person has a genetic predisposition for a MH disorder based on family history.
This is as evidenced by an individual report or documented accounts of the person’s medical file. However, heredity does not automatically mean that an individual will be affected by a MH disorder. Here I trust that most people in Diaspora will breath in and out with a sign of relief. In any case, how many in Diaspora are reading this article and are able to trace their genealogy to the 6th and 5th
generation? Do people know what killed their great grandfathers 125 years ago? How many know the medical history of their families to the 5th or 6th generation (back to 1845). How many brought their medical file with them to this new land? If we are relying sorely on oral stories (not history) then we can go on teaching generational curses that many have not been able to cure, or deliver. Let us also remember this is based either on our African traditions
of the belief in the role of spirits in our lives. Luckily our Western clinicians, and most MH providers practicing in this country have studied the same theories about MH. Here is our line of departure with what we know as Christians and what we practice. Are MH disorders caused by curses or chemistry? Could it be an interplay of both? In reading the scriptures, there are many times when Jesus healed the sick, and also cast out the spirit…this discussion will be left to a religious article some time in the future. A balanced discussion should include generational blessings.
Family and Friends, in order to help individuals struggling with MH, we may call ourselves to reason. In other words, base our understanding on scientific research. Use available resources, not just to inform, but to transform the lives of families in Diaspora. Of course, individuals in the community of faith have a right to believe in generational curses. But a word of caution is if a practicing Christian regardless of their call, position or title, doesn’t know the difference between demon possession and mental illness, my informed opinion is that
it is better to be wrong than sorry. Take the person to the hospital, and while on the way there, drive praying. The key is to keep a person alive and connect them with needed help.
Environmental Causes are mostly overlooked. Yet from a developmental
context, major life changes can contribute or trigger depression. For example,
the death of a loved one, being diagnosed with a chronic illness, financial problems, dealing with difficult relationships, prolonged job loss, trauma experienced due to abuse and even immigration issues that leave families in limbo. A stressful environment, say like having a family member in jail, or imprisoned can lead to emotional problems like anxiety and frustration. The list can be endless.
Depression and Suicide: Most depressed people do not kill themselves, however, the majority of people who commit suicide, have a diagnosable mental or substance abuse disorder. People who are depressed may feel hopeless sad, or pessimistic. In our discussion, we emphasize that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. This is not to minimize an person’s problems. This then means that any discussion of suicide should be taken seriously. When Children, adolescents and adults talk about killing themselves, they are not asking or seeking negative attention. They are asking for help. Perhaps a good question would be to ask a person, “When the situation you are experiencing changes for the better, how will you feel?” Please listen carefully to statements like “I will never be happy again, or feel loved ever. I am better off gone…” Pay attention and be reassuring that things can and will get better. Be aware that there are negative side effects caused by some prescription medication. Read the fine prints carefully. If there are negative side effects to any medicine, contact the doctor.
A hallmark of clinical depression and suicidal feelings and tendencies
is how long (duration) has a person felt sad and hopeless. How often do they feel like this (intensity). How have the feelings, attitude and behavior of this person affected their lives (day to day functioning) at home, school, work, recreation and community. Depression doesn’t just go away because we wish it to. Imagine 1 out 4 people you will meet today will experience depression in their lifetime. If this is the case, there should be no shame in getting help.
We can all earn STARS (Start Talking About it and Remove Stigma. Please join a Team of concerned professionals, parents and ministers who have
a Teleconference Live discussion with questions and answers on all types of
issues of Mental Health affecting our community. This discussion takes place
every 4th Tuesday of each month, now in its 8th month. It is made possible
courtesy of KEMEN (Kenyan Men Empowerment Network, with Mr. Anthony Kamnao, Founder).
What Next? Watch out for articles Part 2 and Part 3 on Mental Health.
Online Resources In the Public Domain, Can Be Obtained from:
GA Crisis Access Line (GCAL) 1.800.715.4225. Available 24/7
National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI) www.nami.org
Helpline 1.800.950.NAMI (6264); write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.TALK (8255)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Reach a Licensed Professional Counselor/Therapist/Online in your State/By Zip Code. Locate a Counselor/Therapist. Or contact us at Kenyan Parents In The USA for more resources in the community.
To reach a Board Certified Christian Counselor/Therapist/by your Zip Code
visit AACC>American Association of Christian Counselors/www.christiancounselordirectory.com
Or in GA/Georgia Christian Counselors Association, Marietta/www.GaChristianCounselors.org
Children/Adolescents/>Ask your Child’s/Teens School Counselor or Psychologist. College & University/Psychologist
Read Other Articles by Rev. Wambui Njoroge/ Let’s Talk About Child Abuse,
Anger Management, and Suicide Prevention in Diaspora. Or request a Family Forum in your community for a fee.
His Servant & His Friend,
Rev. (Mrs.) Wambui Njoroge, M.Sci.
Rev Wambui is a Senior Adviser and mentor
Kenyan Parents in USA