In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week (14 May – 20 May), we have decided to shine light upon the importance of mental health within the African community. Mental Health is just as important as physical health. Despite the great strides in most recent years on changing attitudes towards it, all of us at Glam Africa agree there’s still work to be done.
Remember when Tiwa Savage’s husband, Tunji Balogun, suffered a melt down and wanted to jump off Lekki Bridge in Nigeria? 9 months later he began to fight for mental health and address its controversy in Africa by posting a quote inspired by Kerry Washington on his Instagram.
“Why are we so afraid to discuss mental health?” he asked.
And it’s true, the stigma in Africa is way too hush, hush.
TABOO OF MENTAL HEALTH IN AFRICAN COMMUNITIES
As you know in Africa, many rural communities look at Mental Health as spiritual rather than a medical disorder and people are often dehumanised unfairly with the label of ‘mad’. Even to advocate mental health can tarnish your reputation.
In South Africa, the conversation of Mental Health has only just recently been coming to the forefront after an exclusive article published by The Sunday Times in July 2014, entitled “SA’s sick state of Mental Health.” Since, Mental Health Awareness Month has been established every October in South Africa.
Mental Health Awareness in Nigeria and Ghana is virtually non-existent still. The World Health Organisation estimates that 4% of Nigerians suffer from depression. In fact, the country’s only existing document on Mental Health was written 27 years ago and there is no one appointed in office for Mental Health.
In Ghana, the situation is very similar. Mental Health sufferers are often taken to camps for ‘spiritual cleansing’ and placed in shackles to sit and do nothing all day. In 2012, the government introduced a law to stop mental health sufferers being placed in shackles but this wasn’t effectively actioned. In October 2017, the Ghanaian government announced on World Mental Health Day, that they will properly enforce the 2012 shackle ban.
Some strides have been made however, a lot more needs to be done to ensure awareness and proper legislation across Africa as a whole.
FACTS AND STATS
DID YOU KNOW? In the United Kingdom, those from Black or Ethnic Minority backgrounds are 17 times more likely to have a Mental Health illness? (BBC News, 2017)
DID YOU KNOW? In the United Kingdom, those from Black or Ethnic Minority backgrounds are also 4 times more likely to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. (BBC News, 2017)
DID YOU KNOW? In Nigeria, only 3.3% of the health budget as allocated by the central government, goes to Mental Health. (Nigeria Health Watch, 2017)
DID YOU KNOW? In Ghana, just 2 in 100 people with a Mental Health issue will get the help they need. (Scientect, 2017)
DID YOU KNOW? In South Africa, 1/3 of the population have a mental health illness. 75% of them won’t get the help they need. (The Sunday Telegraph, 2014)
CELEBRITIES THAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW SUFFERED FROM MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
We’re proud of recent celebrities changing the conversation in Mental Health.
Bring it On actress, Gabrielle Union, is paving the way for a change in conversation. In her recent novel, We’re going to need more wine, which was published in October 2017, she tells her harrowing story as a rape victim and how this affected her mental health. She was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder at 19. Earlier this month she filmed for the Child Mind Institute’s #MyYoungerSelf where she discussed how she learnt to live with PTSD.
Tiffany Haddish, Girls Tripactress, has recently come to the spot light discussing living with her mother who suffered with a mental health issue and consequently became physically and emotionally abusive towards her. Her new book, The Last Black Unicorn, discusses her struggle growing up in her family home and later on as a foster child.
Last year, Oprah Winfrey revealed, in an exclusive interview with Vogue, that after the box office failure of her film Beloved in 1998, she suffered clinical depression for about six weeks and a bad emotional stretch.
Last year, British rapper, Stormzy, began to discuss the impacts of mental health. His album, Gang Signs & Prayer, was a reflection on how his attitude to mental health has changed and he wants to help “anyone out there going through it,” after he has realised “how fragile we are as humans.” Stormzy claimed he had suffered from depression himself and he was hesitant to tell the world.
Visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk to find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week.
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