Mental illness is a topic that I am familiar with. Loving someone dearly but fearing that they can be a danger to themselves and others, certainly at no fault of their own is a struggle. My grandmother had a mental illness. Growing up I didn’t understand it. I was too young to remember the kind of illness she had but I remember the effects and how it made me feel, knowing my grandmother had a mental illness. Due to socio-economic background and culture, mental illness is something I was thought to be something bad or unbecoming. In my culture it’s covered up and shied away from. No one talks about it or try to learn more about it and when discussed the conversations are usually not very positive. This is a culture that remains prevalent even until today.
I sometimes try to imagine what it would feel to wake up one day and not be able to think or act and function as I normally do now and not being able to control it. It is unimaginable and not even in my wildest dream can I conceive of what it feels like. I believe we need to have the tough conversations about mental illness. The effects on the individual, the family and society as a whole. It isn’t an easy feet but the sooner we make this discussion normal the faster we become more equipped individually and collectively to deal with and recognize signs of mental illness. I am not suggesting that everyone should be aware and knowledgeable about mental illness, but I do believe it is important for everyone to be open to having conversations around mental illness without judgement. This will help to break barriers and stereotypes. Some stereotypes I grew hearing about centred around witch craft, the bidding of doing good or evil or that it is hereditary which though some are, this is not the case most times. I’m not expert, I am just someone who had a up close experience to what mental illness can look like in an extreme situation. I spent a lot of time visiting my grandmother during the age of 8 and 11, I thank God for the opportunity because I got to know my grandmother and not as this mystical character that I didn’t relate to our understand. I don’t know that she ever fully knew who I am but even though she has now passed I have a memory of her and understanding of her that has influenced how I view myself and how I view mental illness. It’s worth having the conversation and it’s worth getting to know the persons behind the myth. Mental awareness and strength is a very important and as individuals we need to invest time and resources into taking care of our mental health not shying away from it.