Before I started this article, I wondered for a second, if I had exhausted the topic of mental health. I have written about it more than once but sometimes I fear I write about it too much. It’s something that I lived, and it’s a question I ask myself all the time, but it isn’t everything. It barely scratches the surface. The one thing I’d hate to happen as a result is if depressed became my adjective. That would kill me.
Sometimes I fear that it slips out unbidden, and while I may be fine with glueing shells to my man boobs and galavanting around the beach, I’m incredibly uncomfortable sharing my more painful moments. The way I see it, I’m supposed to be good always; happy always. I have always believed that that is my best self. When I’m not, I say that I am anyway with all hope that it will one day be true. And this is part of the problem. I am ashamed. I know that it’s an illness, and I know there’s nothing to be ashamed about but the shame lives on.
Yesterday, Tee Billz, Tiwa Savage’s something or the other put up a picture of Kerry Washington with a quote that she’d made. It said, “My brain and my heart are really important to me. I don’t know why I wouldn’t seek help to have those things as healthy as my teeth. I go to the dentist. So why wouldn’t I go to a shrink?” It’s apt coming from Tee Billz. A little while ago he was on the side of a bridge in Lagos thinking about or trying to jump. Since then it’s been reported that he has received some sort of help. Underneath the picture he said, “If you can seek help for malaria and fever, don’t be ashamed about your psychological and emotional condition! Why are we so afraid to discuss mental health in our society?” That question is one that’s definitely worth asking.
You can get tired of your own words and your own actions. Sometimes I feel like I’ve talked so much about depression that there’s nothing left to say and that’s usually when Niyi Okeowo, a creative genius in Lagos comes along with a quote or a retweet that raises awareness about mental health. When that happens, I think, “I may not have enough energy for another sentence, but I’ve certainly got enough to click the button that says retweet.”
I hit him up on twitter with two questions: why he raises awareness about mental health on twitter and why he thinks it’s important that others do the same. Here’s what he had to say.
I think mental health awareness is really important. Most Nigerian’s either don’t understand what it is or think it’s got something to do with being mad. There are a lot of kids, youths, and adults that have these issues but don’t know how to identify them. Apparently this generation thinks it’s lame to talk about your feelings. You have people that can’t even express themselves properly for fear of how they’ll be percieved by twitter.
I do it because it’s really needed. Someone needs to talk about it. You hear of a lot of people committing suicide and we don’t know why. There’s this ignorant statement I’ve heard, “only white people commit suicide.” Just talking about it does two things for me. Firstly it helps me overcome my own demons and then it helps someone else overcome theirs. If we all really said how we felt… we’d probably be happier. We wouldn’t have so much to hide. But it’s the new age… Everybody wants to be perfect, no flaws… That’s the illusion of social media; everyone’s life is perfect.
But it’s really the opposite. It’s okay to be broken as long as you find your way out of it. The moment people can see that its okay to have flaws is the point that people begin to understand why it’s important to talk about mental health.
And then, it’s very important that those who understand it a little talk about it. When they do they’re doing a good thing. Mental health education is important. If I talk about it today, someone else feels the need to continue the wave and decides to talk about it tomorrow. Before you know it everyone’s talking about it. Everybody is learning. Everybody understands the dangers of not talking about it; the stigma and every other thing that involves mental health . The more hands come together to talk about it, the more we create awareness. This is how movements start. One person sparks the movement and the rest follow through.
I know I delete my tweets every now and then. I could tweet about mental health today and the next month I've deleted my tweets, but, I’m trying to use art to tackle mental health. Exhibitions. Music. Literature. Any art form. Just bringing all of these art forms together under one umbrella to talk and tackle mental health issues. But yeah… It’s super important that we all talk about it. It’s the only way we can educate ourselves. The government either doesn’t care about or understand mental health. All we have is each other to be honest.