The Cultural Taboo on Mental Illness - World Mental Health Day 2018
Today, I’m going to talk about mental illness and the cultural taboo entangled in it. I’d like to ask each and everyone of you to now look around yourselves. You are surrounded by dozens upon dozens of individual minds who either blossom or scream in the silence.
The American Psychiatric Association defines mental illness as health conditions involving one or a combination of changes in thinking, emotion or behaviour. The key words in that definition would be “health condition”. Mental illness is just as serious as other more physical illnesses like diabetes or heart disease. Without mental stability, even the most physically stable person will feel their health deteriorate. So many people have disregarded mental disorders as just a made up phenomenon or a method of seeking attention. Mental illness is real! It is poisoning more and more of our population and we have nobody but ourselves to blame. Those suffering from mental disorders are not just making it up; they are not just attention seeking and most of all, they cannot ‘just get over it’.
Depression - one of the more common mental illnesses- is said to affect approximately 350 million people worldwide. What is the probability that 350 million people have schemed and decided to purposely suffer just to gain attention? It’s very, very low. In fact, depression is more than just sadness- which it is often wrongly paired synonymously with. Depression is a disorder that is affected by a lack or underproduction of the neuro-transmitter serotonin in the brain. Depressive people can’t just wake up one day and decide to stop producing the hormone that makes them happy in the same way that insomniacs can’t just decide to slow their production of melatonin or dopamine. Emotions are key in this situation. Love or attraction is dependant on oxytocin production and excitement is associated with rushes of adrenaline. None of this is controlled and this is the reason why ‘getting over it’ just isn’t all that simple. So many of us are insecure about who we are. There’s nothing wrong with us, we’re just brought up to believe that because we are grow up trying as hard as we can to conform to the incredibly harsh expectations of society. The very expectations that ultimately can’t even be defined because they’re all relative. We don’t realise that we’re fine the way we are because we’re born as unique individuals and that in itself makes us all perfect in our own different ways; but nobody truly believes that because we’re all hell bent on achieving societies definition of beauty- even if we end up hurting ourselves in the process.
Gerard Way, the lead singer of ‘My Chemical Romance’ (one of my favourite bands) once said, “ Would you destroy something perfect in order to make it beautiful?” This quote honestly speaks out to me because so many of us have set out on this unending quest for beauty when in actuality, we were all perfect to begin with. Why do numbers define us? What defines beauty? The number of likes on an Instagram post? The number of views on a snapchat story? The numbers you see on the weighing scale that you then use as an excuse to starve yourself? When will we realise that being beautiful isn’t real - it’s a socially constructed standard! We’re all perfect - we were born that way and it sickens me that worryingly very few of us are able to understand that - much less accept it. Worst of all, we just plaster a smile that gets seemingly wider as our self-esteem deteriorates.
We live in the 21st century and so medical advances are at their peak - mental illness can be medicinally treated once properly diagnosed. This treatment can then also be further assisted with the help of therapy. This, however, is only going to happen if the individual suffering speaks up about their condition. Look around you. 1 in 4 people are said to suffer from a mental illness throughout the course of their lives. Think of your household, think of your classes. 1 in every 4 people. How many people do you know? As much as a quarter of those people are suffering; are you even aware of it? However worrying this statistic may be, it only accounts for those who have been clinically diagnosed.
What about those who haven’t spoken up? How many more of us are suffering in the silence while the rest are left blossoming in the ignorance? We can’t know for sure because people are afraid to speak up. I like to think of repression as a balloon being filled with water. Think of the balloon as someone’s mind and the water as the negativity that is tied to mental illness. Now, imagine you are filling that balloon with water. Eventually, it gets full and can’t hold any more but you don’t close the tap. Eventually, the balloon is going to burst and that, is a mental breakdown. Even if you close the tap once it gets full, the balloon will still be delicate as ever and unable to contain itself. In the same way, people should feel comfortable enough to talk about their problems before they reach their breaking point but this is not happening. People are so terrified of being judged, or ostracised because of their problems that they get repressed - which only makes it worse. People are being pressured to hide their issues instead of speaking up about them and as a consequence, they are
made to suffer alone.
What I would like you all to take back from this would be a more open mind about the struggles that people face - particularly the ones that encircle mental disorders. Your best friend could be suffering and you might not even be aware of it. Our society is saturated with repression and the only thing we can do to counteract it would be to be more accepting of each other. Pay more attention to those around you. Emma Goldman once said “The most violent element in society is ignorance.” We need to start caring more about what people go through and stop turning a blind eye to our loved ones as they continue to silently destroy themselves. Nobody should ever have to suffer on their own.
There are 7.6 billion people and we’re still crying alone. It’s not okay. We’re not okay and we should be able to say that.
The Year 7 trip is designed to educate our young people about the geographical magnificence of where we live and, at the same time to learn about how valleys are made, rifts are formed and the role of various eco zones in maintaining a healthy environment. Alongside this, the children are also learning one of the most important parts of history – where do we come from?
Not only are the children learning all of that but also how to be team players, build a camp, be in the wild, overcome fears and self doubt and most importantly to feel freedom, discover and have fun.
There is no better journey than a safari to the world famous caldera, Ngorongoro Crater and the place of all our roots, Oldupai Gorge. These magnificent places are exemplary to all of the above. We are extremely lucky to be able to access them.
THURSDAY 4TH OCTOBER
After packing our bus with tents, mattresses and food, we sped into the morning, crossing the great Maasai Steppes, climbing the ragged Great Rift Wall and stopped for a picnic lunch at Panorama Campsite. Perched on the edge of the rift, with Lake Manyara twinkling far below, there seemed like no better classroom for a geography lesson. While we munched our delicious lunches made by Musa, Mr Wallace delivered a fascinating lesson on how valleys are made and how the Rift was formed.
Our next stop was the viewing point on the edge of the iconic Ngorongoro Crater rim. It is absolutely beautiful. The air is crisp and the light sparkles. The skies are wide. It is hard to find words which equate the beauty of this crater. It is dreamlike.
Once more, Mr Wallace gave an informative lesson on how the caldera was formed. In fact, it was so entertaining and interesting, even a few passing tourists paused a while to glean some new information.
We drove along the rim, looking down on tumbling forests on one side and the crater on the other, a veritable knife edge. Our driver, Joshua, was excellent and careful. We arrived at Simba public campsite and wasted no time in setting up camp. Ms Lulu, Ms Doria and Mr Wallace assisted the children in putting up their tents. We were impressed with how efficiently this was done. There was great team work involved. Mr Wallace conducted a tent inspection and scored each team.
After this, it was fun and games before night fell. Duck Duck Goose was a brilliant way in letting out some pent-up energy, a favourite game of the Year 7’s. We were also visited by a rather friendly bull elephant. The children had to learn to respect the wild, be quiet and keep their distance. . . The campsite was dotted with some fat, shiny Zebra who seemed not to mind the wild games and shrieks of delight from the children. It was a dream like place to be.
After dinner, immaculately prepared by Bro Musa, we sat under the twinkling stars and told a few ghost stories, Ms Doria’s winning the prize for the scariest. Soon we were all zipped into our tents safely until morning.
FRIDAY 5TH OCTOBER
At first light, children tumbled out their tents, bursting for the loo! After a tasty breakfast, over which some rather imaginative stories of the night were shared ( warthogs trying to scuffle tents, hyena sniffings and other rather wild and exaggerated tales which only indicate wonderfully vivid imaginations ) and another tent inspection by Mr Wallace, we were on the bus again, and this time to Oldupai Gorge!
The drive is absolutely splendid. We wound our way down the other side of the rim, the world falling away into the blue and beyond, with the Serengeti like a distant dream on the horizon.
Once again, Mr Wallace kept the children completely engaged along the way, teaching biology, geography and history in an innovative and captivating manner. It was so inspiring to see children engaged in their passing world and not in their screens, taking notes for their Deep Learning Projects.
Oldupai Gorge is, well, iconic and imperative to understanding who we are and where we all came from, all of us across the world. It is hauntingly powerful and ancient. The new museum is outstanding! In fact, there is almost too much information to absorb in one visit. The children took their own tour, armed with pens, cameras and clip boards.
After wandering around the circular tour of the displays we gathered in the beautiful auditorium, which overlooks the famous gorge where the Leakeys made their world famous discoveries, shedding light and truth on our ancestors and heritage. Here Ndegere gave us an informative lecture, the gorge a perfect backdrop.
After this, we munched our packed lunches in the restaurant area and then headed down into the gorge with Ndegere, finding fossils, bones and stone tools. It is utterly incredible to think how rich this place is in history. The children were brave and strong and walked down steep stony paths in the blazing heat without complaint, thrilled with their discoveries.
I for one, was sad to leave. James did mention, “ But Miss, you said this was going to be fun?” I suspect he imagined zip lines and a fun park to be thrown in somewhere along the line…
We were happy to be back high up on the Crater where the air is cool and invigorating. That night, our friendly bull elephant called on us again, right in the middle of a marshmallow roasting party at our little camp fire. We had to walk quietly and quickly to the kitchen area. We returned to complete the sweet feast and then zipped ourselves up tightly into our tents.
Once silence descended our little explorative party, Mr Elephant soon tip toed out of the forest and, under the quiet and tremulous stars, like a proverbial ship in the night, silently made his way past our tents, a beautiful tribute to the end of our safari.
SATURDAY 6TH OCTOBER
After breakfast, the children packed up their tents, under the eagle eye of Mr Wallace, and we headed home, our heads and hearts full to the brim from this incredible foray into our history.
How fortunate we all are to live in Tanzania, so rich in heritage and blessed with one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. And even more, how incredibly lucky we are to be able to share it with the next generation, hoping that they shall hold it gently and respectfully in their hands.
Our BTEC Creative Media Production students had the opportunity of a lifetime this weekend, working as the crew for Arusha's first ever TEDx event - TEDxMajengo.
Our Early Years Coordinator, Miss Lynsey Logan, was volunteering as Event Manager for the event and, seeing the incredible opportunity for our students to experience a real, creative media production environment, invited them to be the technical crew for the event.
The students took up the roles of camera operators, sound and light operators, projection assistants and runners and worked hard to professional standards all day to help the event run smoothly. Additionally, they had the opportunity to meet the speakers and curated audience of business owners, non-profit workers, teachers, designers and young entrepreneurs from around Arusha and Tanzania.
Now, having filmed all the amazing speakers at the event, the students will edit the talks for uploading to the official TEDx website. Watch this space for their own recounts of their experience in the coming weeks.
Fantastic work and well done to you all!
During the long July break a group of our students travelled across the Atlantic to the USA to participate in the Dallas Mavericks Basketball Camp.
Here is a recount from one of the students - Jason Mndolwa (Year 11):
"The day before the trip we were more than excited! Every time I closed my eyes, I imagined myself on the court playing ball. I realized it was a dream when I started dunking! But dreams do come true though, right? We were to leave the next day and on our way to Nairobi where we met up with another group of people from Braeburn Garden Estate. We joined up with the other school and travelled together. Our flight was in the evening and we arrived around 12. Basically, we had to wait for about 5 hours till our flight leaves, but we were too excited to even care! The time came to board the plane and without even realizing it we took off. It was a long trip - it took about 22 hours to reach America. We were all exhausted but luckily the camp didn’t start till Monday and we arrived on a Saturday so basically we had time to rest. Everyone was preparing their kits and washing their shoes ready to show off and ball out on Monday. But, as Mr. Masudi always tells us: “It’s not all about the accessories that you wear - it’s all about the game”.
On the first day of the camp we all looked nervous. But after everyone got a hold of the ball, we all felt like we belonged there. The normal routine was: warm up, then we go up to the video room to learn the game after that we go back to the court to play ball till 4pm. This was the rotations for almost the whole week except for Friday where we had a tournament with the teams we were assigned to the first day of camp. Sadly, we lost in the semifinals, but as a team we kept our head up and stayed positive for the whole day. On the last day of the camp they gave out prizes and gifts to everyone. Some got individual prizes and others got group ones. Mr. Masudi had an amazing day planned for us for our last days in America. But, its Dallas and its summer, add those two together and we will get heat. We couldn’t go to the theme park the next day but instead we went to a trampoline park. We learned a lot from the camp in the past week. We thanked all our coaches and said our goodbyes to our other teammates and friends.
On the Sunday we went a women’s NBA game for the first time. It was the Dallas Wings that we were supporting. The effort that these ladies put in when playing ball shows us how much determination they have inside them to win just a game. At the end of the match we lost but the smiles in each of these ladies faces just show how much they still believe in themselves to pick up and keep working hard to be at the top. This day wasn’t just a day to have fun and watch an NBA game. It was also a day to learn how you must be when you lose a game and you still have to have sportsmanship. At the end of the day, we drove back to our hotel and kicked back to play some games and chill before flying home the next day.
We all thank Mr. Masudi for making it a thrilling and exciting trip. I am hoping to go back next time more skilled and trained ready to ball out."