PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Belief that mental illness is due to witchcraft is hogwash

Refrain from such kind of talk and refer the affected to qualified professionals for help

In Summary

• Mental illnesses are just like any other disease and should be treated as such

A witch's paraphernalia
A witch's paraphernalia
Image: FILE

I went through depression for quite a while without knowing I was actually depressed. However, the signs were there, starting with lack of sleep.

This was the most frustrating thing because I would get into bed by, say, 10 or 11pm.

 

 As the rest of the world snored away into dreamland, I would lie awake, tossing and turning in bed, with no sign of a wink.

Then as the cocks crowed and people were getting ready to start another day, that is when a heavy but nightmare-filled sleep would come.

Since I had to get to work to earn my daily keep, I would saunter out of bed in a daze. This meant a whole day spent in a sleepy state.

You would think that with that entire tiredness, one would get a good sleep the next night. The reality is, the cycle was repeated.

 I have mentioned the nightmares. These, too, were frustrating because there are days that sleep would come and the nightmares would set in in earnest.

Sometimes, it would be wild animals chasing you. Other times, they were angry people seeking to harm you. It was running without end.

Lack of appetite was another thing I went through. No matter how hungry I felt, I could not bring myself to eat. This led to serious complications on my weight and health in general.

 

 It was at this helpless stage that I went to Google to check on the symptoms and try to get a solution. All the indications pointed to depression. I thank God for my employer because it helped me seek the best treatment I could get.

It was not easy agreeing to start the long walk with my psychiatrist Dr Nelly Kitazi. You see, in our society, mental health is not something that just happens.

In most cases, people would assume that the person going through depression, or any other mental illness for that matter, is paying for a sin they committed themselves or by their parents.

In other instances, it is also believed that it is the work of witchcraft and that the patient needs to look for and appease the one who cast the spell.

Talking with health professionals, you will realise that this is a lot of hogwash. Mental illnesses are just like any other disease and should be treated as such.

There is always the tendency for those around depressed people to assume that they are weaklings who need to belt up and travel the life journey.

My advice to such is to refrain from such kind of talk and refer the affected to qualified professionals for help.

Linked to this, I have seen cases where religious leaders condemn the depressed, more so because of the tendency of those depressed to get hooked to alcohol or drugs.

Threatening such a person with hellfire might be counterproductive because in the minds of those going through depression, their lives are already hell on earth and any other hell would not offer any danger.