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Myths, mysteries, and missing gaps in mental health awareness

By Caroline Boyani Oyaro

As we commemorate May, the month of mental health awareness, there is little we have done to ensure a smaller gap exists in the increasing cases of mental health illnesses- although some are beyond our control, others it’s because of ignorance.

Grace is a twenty-year-old who suffered from a personality disorder for almost four years and never took it seriously. She felt that it was nothing to concern herself with: after all, which youth or teenager doesn’t act up sometimes?

As much as mental wellness leaflets are offered in hospitals and conferences, we are yet to take mental health seriously as a nation.

“One of my friends advised me to go for therapy, and I looked at him like he was insane. I had assumed therapy was for people who are suicidal. Plus, it’s very expensive,” Grace said. “I was not about to pay someone to dictate how I should live,” she added.

“What we see on the Internet about trust nobody and suspect everybody was my daily mantra; I assumed my friends were out to harm me and took offence when anyone tried to correct me,” she explained.

Personality disorders are grouped into three clusters; cluster A, which has paranoid, schizoid and schizotypal personality. Cluster B comprises anti-social, borderline and histrionic personality disorder, and Cluster C, which includes avoidant, dependent and obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is harder to control.

Studies have shown that these traits can be transferred from parents to their children through genes making it easy for people to downplay the longterm effects. While genes play a part, the environment one resides in might dictate how they develop. An environment that is violent and full of crime might be traumatic and force people to react in a certain way. Taking example of the 2007 post election violence that left most homeless and orphaned, a survivor of that might find it hard to trust others and easily get paranoid.

Steve, a mental health advocate, explained how the disorders affect relationships a person with a personality disorder has with other people.

“These individuals, if employed, cannot contain their anger and might be fired. If they are the employer, they may disagree with their employees. These traits can also push someone into isolation and drug abuse, which doubles the problem,”

Those affected by personality disorders get easily irritated, find it hard to disagree with others for fear of disapproval and might tolerate abusive relationships. Others show extreme orderliness and perfectionism, while others believe they are more special than others.

“The best time to seek help is when you notice any of the symptoms because if left for long, it can disrupt your normal life and ruin your relationships,” advised Steve. “Parents should be keen on their children’s behaviour and take necessary measures,” he added.

The mind, just like the body, needs care.  If not well cared for, it will affect the physical, social and financial aspects of one’s life.

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