By Fiona Jacques Manda, and Gibson C Kamanga
The past two weeks have seen Malawi losing over four relatively younger and productive souls in suicide cases.
We will not go into the nitty-gritties of the motivating factors behind the said acts. But whatever the case, such circumstances are slowly becoming a common phenomenon in the warm heart of Africa.
Depression, by Malawian standards, is one of those health issues we tend to give a cold shoulder to. Unfortunately, its side-effects do bite hard on all of us.
From our classrooms, work places, in the streets…you name it! We are all being surrounded by friends, and acquaintances who are having serious mental problems but are not getting the necessary treatment.
How many of us have ever visited, let alone taken or recommended somebody whom we know, to seek the services of a mental health expert?
From the look of things, we, Malawians tend to undermine the gravity of mentally depressed persons. We entertain the problem till it is, more often than not, too late to save the patient. Some of the precious lives lost could have been saved if, maybe we had laid a helping hand by recommending the said victims to a mental health facility.
We feel it is high time we started handling this issue with the solemnity it deserves. You may think your drunkard brother is just addicted to alcohol. You may think she is just obsessed with sex. Or you may think it is just normal that your teen brother is just obsessed with porn movies. You may think she is just a public shy sister, and yet it may be a sign that she may be depressed, or it may be an early warning sign that something somewhere is not right.
Let us observed such faint traces of depression before it gets too little too late.
It is so easy to add one plus one unto a mentally depressed relative/ loved one. First amongst the list is withdrawal from the public. Mentally depressed persons are fond of finding comfort in their own little private world. Take note if our loved ones, all of a sudden, start building a cocoon of their own…
Others, on the other hand, become too aggressive for literally nothing. They may be very violent for no convincing reason at all. Such aggressiveness, often times is a sign of trying to hide their inner weaknesses.
That is not all. Others may resort to mood swings. You could see them happy at one instance, then sad or even violent within seconds. We are so sure this is also a familiar sight, not so?
What about loss of pleasure in activities, and hopelessness?
These and many others could be some of the motivating factors for us to seek mental health services at our nearest clinics, or recommend our loved one on the same.
Let us learn to observe the slight changes in our close ones. It may be more than meets the eye.
Fellow Malawians, mental health illnesses are real.