NAFULA KISIANGANI: How to handle depression

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Who is Nafula Kisiangani?
I am a feminist, social justice advocate, social development consultant and a mental health enthusiast. I run a social development company and a mental health organization called Mental 360 as one of the directors.

What is mental wellness?
Mental wellness is basically being able to realize your ability and deal with challenges that face us. This is very important in our day to day activities to fulfill our obligations.

There are several Mental illness depression being the most common one. We have others like bipolar, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Schizophrenia, Anxiety Disorder which are on the rise.

As a society, we do not appreciate this condition. Failure to manage them leads to persistent depression and I would request us to actively participate in destigmatizing mental health so that people can seek help. Mental illness in our community is mostly associated with curses and evil spirits which isn’t the case. Or sometimes dismissed as a thing of the west. And this has led to severe implications.

It’s worthy noting that suicide is the second cause of death among the youths in Kenya, 70 percent as a result of depression. This should worry us. Depression is basically a series of mood disorders. Often we identify with the low moods but depressed people can be high too. Always be keen of behavioral change of your loved ones.

How do people know they are mentally ill? As a person can you be able to identify that you are mentally ill without being told so?
You can detect behavioural changes in people. Sudden disinterest in things they used to love for instance, extreme paranoia, sense of unworthiness, loss of appetite, lack of sleep etc

On detecting mental conditions or illness among us, I request we seek to empower ourselves on the various conditions upon noticing some symptoms. It’s good to seek a clinical psychologist and have a psychiatrist check it out.

Just like any other illness or conditions, don’t self diagnose yourself. It is also important to understand your body and dynamics, unless they are elevated to self awareness levels they will be more confused in realizing this.

If someone is feeling depressed, where should they go for help?
If one feels depressed, it’s important to see a clinical psychologist. In Kenya affordability of mental health is a bit high but we have institutions like Amani Counseling, Mental 360, LVCT that offer free counselling services.

How should we handle a person who is depressed?
Be very positive when handling a depressed person, assure them that they can count on you, they need alot of love. Support them to attend their therapies.

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Be a listening ear. Don’t assume you know what they feel and gag them. Encourage them to talk, do more listening but let them know they have your back. Simple acts of kindness can save a life. Do not judge them. You must be very patient because some can be annoying but remember at this phase they are not themselves. It’s more painful losing them.

What do you think should be done to create awareness about depression in the community?
We must start discussions in our spaces. Whatever we are doing is a step to the right direction. Most people do not know about depression. They cluelessly go through it and unfortunately a good number succumb.

Most of our loved ones do not understand what depression means, and thus depressed people lack support system.

Is depression an aftermath? What causes it and how can we deal with those factors?
There are very many causes of depression. Sometimes depression can just hit from nowhere. Research hasn’t ascertained it’s full causes yet. Some have been linked to genetics, some life episodes e.g bereavement, violence.

We have post pertum depression that affect many women after giving birth, work frustration, family. We have post campus depression when most youths are struggling with unemployment and to find their career path.

What we eat, watch and those we interact with. Can these catalyse depression as such?
Yes, they have a role to play. Even social media. When you feel others are doing good and you are stuck. Instagram is the worst one of them all. The many fake lifestyles and competition.

Mental illness is also manifested a lot in social media. You can easily tell a victim.

What is your parting shot?
I will conclude by urging you to seek to empower yourselves on mental health and mental illness. Victims of mental illness have been neglected, they are raped daily, lose their jobs, commit suicide. We need to support and protect them. Mental health deserves the same attention like HIV, cancer and other illnesses.

In your spaces, at work, at school, in families…be the voice of reason. Reach out, be kind and make the difference.

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