As we start a new year, we must have undoubtedly done some reflection on all aspects of our lives.
We must have looked at what we have done well in the previous year and areas that may need great improvement.
Our hope is that the year 2022 will be a different year, both on a personal and societal level. There is hope that this year will bring more good things and will be a year that we overcome some of the great obstacles we have faced previously.
Of course, this is all with the understanding that we will do our best with matters that are within our control, and anticipate that nature and the powers beyond our control will be in our favour.
As we enter a new year, we must continue to take care of ourselves and one of the most important areas we must prioritise is our mental wellness.
This area deserves more priority for reasons both obvious and those that may not be so obvious. The truth, whether we do admit it or not, is that at some point in our lives we will all experience mental unwellness.
In fact, most of us may be experiencing them even right now. The obvious reasons to prioritise mental wellness both at personal and community level are even more undeniable. Some, if not most, of us have or know someone who has lost a loved one due to mental unwellness. It is even more concerning when mental unwellness starts to greatly affect even children and young adults.
The fact is that, as with many other tragedies, we only get to talk about addressing mental unwellness when something bad happens. Only when a life is lost are we all, of the sudden, concerned.
This is mostly done out of guilt because we feel and know that we could have done better. We realise that we could have seen the signs if we paid attention; we could have made a difference if we just made that call.
Only if we could have kept in touch with that person, listened and tried to understand them without judgement then they would still be with us. This is should not, however, be taken as self-blame, but rather as introspection that leads to a realisation that there is a need for change.
As part of our revival and redemption, as a society, we must also first admit that we are not equipped to deal with mental unwellness.
This is so much that even if someone were to approach us for help, we would not even know what to do.
Of course, the most important thing would be to refer the person to a professional, for example a counsellor, social worker, or psychologist.
However, we must also understand that sometimes help may be needed at odd hours, and one should be able to render “first aid” until such a time when professional help is available.
There has, of course, been efforts to create awareness on mental wellness but the truth is that it has received very little emphasis in comparison to other public health matters.
As a people, country and the world, we have greatly overcome some of the most life-threatening health challenges. There is also no doubt that we can do the same with the silent mental health crisis. Just as with physical health, we may not eliminate mental unwellness, but we can bring it down to a manageable level.
This is even more possible when our society is well oriented with mental wellness issues and creates safe spaces for those who may be faced with mental unwellness challenges. This is all possible because if there is truly a will, there will be many ways.
Uncommon Sense is published every Friday in the New Era newspaper with contributions from Karlos Naimwhaka