Our culture does not encourage opening up when in an emotional pain. In our part of the world, being able to shut up and swallowing it all up when in a mental or emotional pain is mistaken for strength.
Unfortunately, research has shown in other parts of the world in recent times that not opening up to reach out when in pain displays weakness and not strength at all.
To these parts of the world, when an individual Discover’s that he is in any form of emotional or mental pain, the first step he takes to seek help is a step towards recovery and healing and it is a sign of strength, good energy and hope.
The World Health Organization estimates that, in every forty seconds, a person dies of suicide in the world and there are lots and lots of people who attempt suicide but fail worldwide. This Statistics includes Africa and Ghana as well.
This point to the fact that we may be isolated geographically but what affects us psychologically is the same worldwide. Let me add that, when we say that we are not alone, we mean to say that, we are connected as a people emotionally and mentally.
Why then do we insist on silence when an individual is in an emotional or mental pain in our local communities?
I have discovered that, in times past, our people did not have systems available for people who needed help in these areas. Yes, psychologists and professional counselors have always been with us. Unfortunately, not anyone in crises could afford these services. Our people not knowing what to do, shifted the responsibility back to the sufferers and told them to be strong enough to swallow it up. This intervention has never been good enough as there are cases of suicide in Ghana too.People die of suicide or attempt suicide in Ghana too. The more we try to ignore this fact and treat, the subject as a taboo, the more people die. We cannot continue to keep the discussions closed as we are also in danger of it.
Three years ago, I sat in the call center of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) in Johannesburg as a mental health advocate in training. SADAG is the leading mental health advocacy organization across Africa. Their impact on the country, South Africa in terms of education, support and advocacy in the field of mental health is amazing.
Education of mental health is advanced in the country and I can partly attribute this to SADAG’s work in the country.At the SADAG call center, I was impressed at the rate at which people reached out and called their helpline when in crises of various emotional and mental problems. When I think about the striking difference between Ghana and South Africa in terms of reaching out, I can say that culture plays a role.
Our people are taught to keep their pain to themselves; our people believe that silence is strength. This intuition can seemingly be equated to telling an Ulcer patient to keep the pain to themselves. If we find this impossible, then let us accept that, we have done more harm than good to the millions of people in our country who have had to deal with depression and other related issues.
We cannot continue to adjust to this way of life because of our lack as a people. For if we cannot tell the Diabetic patient to snap out and be strong because there are no hospitals available for their treatment, we should never under any circumstance tell the patient with depression not to be depressed or not to open up because we lack structures that can readily assist them.
We must break the culture. Keeping quiet is fatal when it comes to emotional pain. Mental illness does not heal in silence. We must break the chain of silence.
The first step in breaking the culture of silence is to ensure that there are structures available for people to reach out to when they find themselves in crises.
CNG Foundation has partnered with well-equipped psychologists and professionals in the mental health filed to provide free, confidential and professional counseling to people who battle with mental and emotional problems across Ghana. ME Recovery Helpline is a safe space where you can call to access free professional counseling when dealing with life and its many battles. All you need to do is to call our weekday evening helpline on 0302909104 or WhatsApp our 24-hour text line on 0242658035 so that a professional will be tasked to reach out to you. It is very simple to access everywhere you are and at any time.
We believe that this kind of help must be free in every country in the world. For we all need a shoulder to lean on when in pain. And what is real in South Africa and America and other parts of the world is equally real in Ghana; because we are connected to each other in this specific area. We are all at risk of depression and Suicide. We are all at risk of emotional pain sometimes. And the earlier we unlearn the culture of silence, the better it is for us all. We hear rumors and stories of suicide every now and then in our country in recent times. The first few weeks after the incident, we host grand media shows to discuss the subject. However, we forget as fast as possible when the pain of grief and loss is no longer in our hearts. And all of a sudden, the subject becomes a taboo to us.
LET US REMEMBER THAT SILENCE IS FATAL AND OPENING UP IS STRENGTH.