talking about mental health in an African home.
This is a topic that we do not discuss in my house. At all. I have always wanted to talk to my parents about my mental health. Yet, every time my feet are ready to move, they are glued to the floor. And every time I am ready to speak, my mouth becomes dry and I am unable to find the words. How do you tell your parents that you are suffering from depression? I’m not saying that I am depressed, but I know plenty of Africans my age who have trouble opening up to their parents. Mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, etc, are not discussed in an African Household.
We are limited. We are held back. You might say, “Why don’t you make your parents understand?” But I cannot. My parents would associate depression with craziness. But these are my assumptions. How can I forget? I also come from a religious household. Therefore, if I were to open up to my parents, they would tell me to pray about it. You would be surprised if I were to tell you what my major is. Actually, guess. Yes. You’re right. Psychology.
Every time I tell people I am a psychology major, this is their initial reaction: “Oh wow, we need more people like you because there are too many crazy people in this world.” People fail to acknowledge that mental disorders are serious. It sickens me when people associate mental illnesses with being crazy. No. We must stop this stigma of mental illnesses. My point is that it’s not just African parents, but also other people who fail to educate themselves. However, in order for me to have a discussion with my parents, I need to educate them on what mental disorders are.
But where do we (Africans who are in my generation) begin? How do we have an honest, open discussion about our mental health? Maybe, our parents are also suffering, but choose to not acknowledge it. Suffering in silence is not the answer. We can begin this conversation by going to our parents, sitting down with them, and tell them what is going on. The conversation could simply begin when they ask you if you are okay. If you like to write, you can also write letters to your parents. Our first step is to try to make them understand. If they refuse to acknowledge your mental health, then find someone else who can understand.
Some of us are not close to our parents, which can also be a problem. Although I am not close to my parents, I want to stop suffering in silence. The next time my dad asks me if I am okay, hopefully, my feet will no longer be glued to the floor, my mouth isn’t so dry, and I’ll be able to find the words.