While we’re taking appropriate measures to protect us, physically, from COVID-19, what’s also important is that we look after our mental health. Mental health is not only something that should be top of mind for you, but it’s good to consider when looking out for friends and family as well.
According to the World Health Organization Statistics, it is estimated that of a population of around 1.478 million Gambians, about 120,000 people have a mental disorder requiring treatment. But still, if you’re having trouble knowing where to start, these conversations about mental health are a good place to start.
Silvia Lorenzi, a Clinical Psychologist, and Psychotherapist, with more than 10 years of experience in the clinical field in Italy and three years in The Gambia. Lorenzi has vast experience working in the area of psycho-emotional support both with young people and adults. In our exclusive interview with Dr. Lorenzi, she explained how to approach the conversation about mental health, and how to prevent issues in the future.
“Mental health is an important component of our wellbeing and it’s something that needs our attention now more than ever. So during this period our health is more challenged because we have so many things that are not sure so people who were not suffering from anxiety, depression and fears are becoming more aware of these things notwithstanding the people who already face these issues. So if we are not well in our mind it’s like all our systems is affected and we start to feel sick with low energy levels so it’s very important to start to bring our attention on how we feel on emotions, how to deal with our emotions and also how we react/behave in our daily lives, so all of these are talking about our mental health,” she says.
According to Dr. Lorenzi, one of the main things to keep in mind while starting any conversation that addresses mental health is to eliminate any trace of shame or blame in your tone and to approach the topic carefully. If you are struggling with mental health issues yourself, Lorenzi advises that you have to make a personal commitment to yourself in order to see results, and the desire to treat the issue has to come from within.
“One of the ways of dealing with mental health is to become more aware of ourselves and also to realize that emotions are a part of life. We are all going through emotions so we need to not repress emotions that are not positive like fear, sadness or even anger and start to realize that unpleasant emotions are normal and a part of life. So once we accept them we will find the best possible way to deal with them.”
“This goes without saying for anyone, but if you know someone who is struggling with mental illness or addiction, you can be a help in convincing them to seek treatment and help,” says Dr. Lorenzi. Starting these conversations, whether it be for yourself or someone you love, with a trusted family member or friend is also ideal.
Lorenzi also warns that, after having a conversation with someone you trust, you need to consult a professional for additional support and tips on how to move forward. You have to treat mental illness just like you would treat any other health issue; you should be proactive about seeking treatment at the first sign something’s wrong, she says.
Mental health is a topic that most people tend to push to the wayside, but starting and keeping the conversation alive can increase visibility about these issues, which will help end the still existing negative stigma about mental health. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, seek help or talk to someone you trust. You are not alone in this fight.