Gamu Chinamasa opens up on mental health and depression

Mental health and, especially depression, has been part of my life for years.

It has been challenging, mostly in Zimbabwe, where most will say it’s an illness only found within those that are privileged or “uptown”, while others say it is a “white man’s” disease.

Most African households will say that one is behaving this way because of laziness.

The assumption is that everyone knows depression and what it entails. Many of us know the definition or snippets of it, but do we really understand it or care to?

Depression is a mental health disorder characterised by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.

It could be a combination of biological, psychological and social sources of distress. It is the persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterises major depression and can lead to a range of behavioural and physical symptoms.

Gamuchirai Chinamasa is a mental health counselor and advocate

These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behaviour or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of suicide.

A person with a healthy mind should be able to think clearly, to solve various problems faced in life, enjoy good relations with friends, colleagues at work and family and bring happiness to others in the community.

The mind and body share a great deal with each other, if one is affected, then the other will certainly be affected.

There is also what we call Mental illness.

This is when the mind falls ill. It is any illness that affects emotions, thoughts or behaviour which produces a negative effect on their lives and lives of their families.

Mental illness includes a broad range of health problems. The majority of people with mental illness behave and look no different from anyone else.

Mental illness knows no boundary; it can affect anyone. It is estimated that one in every five adults will experience a mental problem in their lifetime.

Mental illness is very disabling. People with mental illness are often discriminated against by the community and their families, yet it could happen to anyone, even YOU.

Types of mental illness

1. Common mental disorders, for example, depression, anxiety;

2. Major or severe mental disorder; 

3. Developmental disorders -found in children and adolescents;

4. Drug use disorders; and

5. Dementia, which is common in older people. They will have problems with their memory, poor orientation to time, place and person. They are easily upset and tearful.

Causes of mental illness

-Stressful life events: This would be my category as well, as I am easily triggered;

-difficult family background;

-Medical conditions: This is my category, as someone diagnosed with clinical depression;

-Substance abuse;

-Head injury; and

-Unknown causes.

The common of treatment is usually medication, talk therapy or a combination of the two. Increasingly, research suggests that these treatments may normalise brain changes associated with depression.

My journey with depression certainly wasn’t the easiest to deal with, but it was a journey that came with lessons, lessons I greatly treasure even though most were very painful.

Depression often comes with a major feeling of anxiety, emptiness and loneliness even when nothing major has happened in your life or anything that should cause one stress or anxiety.

I can’t stress this enough times and I am trying my best to have every reader really get how it feels without having to have experienced it at all; but it makes you feel extremely hopeless and completely down and out.

You fail to see the light at the end of the tunnel even if the tunnel is not long and narrow. You fail to see the blue sky and big clouds.

You fail to be in love with the smell of rain.  You go through the phase of feeling this way for a few weeks or even months, feeling lonely, anxious, overwhelmed, with the pain of abondoment and heartbreak flooding in even if in reality you not even in a relationship to be heartbroken or going through a major exam or life change. 

Most people struggling with depression or mental illness usually don’t look it. Depressed people are usually the most talkative people you know, constantly smiling or cracking jokes but once alone their monster comes creeping out again to remind them that this life is not worth living and your life is not great.

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