Non-communicable Diseases

Unsilenced about mental health and men

When American actress and producer said mental health needs more sunlight, more frankness, and more unashamed conversation, these  describe Edwin’s role as an advocate.

Edwin runs a an open yet closed social space that encourages men to openly share their thoughts and life’s challenges.

Open, yet closed?

Yes. Edwin runs a WhatsApp known as Mentally Unsilenced where men drop their guard and share their mental health journeys.

The WhatsApp group has 52 members who engage daily on a variety of mental health issues including addiction, depression, anxiety and socio-economic issues. According to Edwin, the social networking platform has led to a sense of brotherhood among the members.

Edwin describes mental health as a process than a destination. He facilitates this through daily conversations through the WhatsApp group known as Mentally Unsilenced.

“The WhatsApp aims to create awareness around mental health issues. We give a voice to people living with mental health conditions, speaking out on stigma and discrimination attached to mental health conditions and providing affordable solutions,: he said. “We maintain a sense confidentiality and encourage each brother to openly share, Edwin added.

Edwin notes that traditionally, men do not openly express themselves because they have been cultured to think that they should only display characteristics like strength, assertiveness and confidence.

“Men traditionally do not open up but we are changing this mindset, a day at a time ,” Edwin noted that the awkward silences when a man cries are now part of the norm.

What are some of the signs and symptoms that a person has a mental health condition?

 Aggressiveness, anger, and irritability
 Changes in mood or energy levels
 Changes in appetite or sleeping habits
 Difficulty focusing
 Feeling restless or “on edge”
 High consumption of alcohol
 Inappropriate use of drugs
 Participating in risky activities
 Feeling sad, hopeless, numb, or emotionally “flat”
 Aches, pains, or other physical symptoms without a clear cause
 Obsessive or compulsive thoughts or behaviors
 Thinking about or attempting suicide

Identify the triggers, manage them

Some of the common mental health conditions in men include depression, anxiety disorders, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Schizophrenia and Substance abuse.

What treatment is available for the various mental health conditions?

Edwin believes that a personal decision to adopt a lifestyle change is an important step in recovery. “If the person takes alcohol daily, the first step is to avoid friends and colleagues who encourage you to imbibe at uncontrollable levels,” Edwin says.

Other lifestyle changes include eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, regular exercise, meditation and limiting the use of alcohol and drugs.

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, encourages the individual to understand the behaviors, emotions, and ideas that may be behind the illness and charts a path on how to change them.

The benefits of psychotherapy includes having a discussion with the therapist to identify the life events that could have contributed to the mental health condition. This form of therapy also helps one to regain a sense of control of their life and also learn healthy ways to address problems and resolve conflicts. In some instances, the psychiatrist may prescribe medication like antidepressants, antianxiety drugs and aids to assist in sleeping.

Can mental health conditions be prevented?

Consultant psychiatrist Prof Lukoye Atwoli shares the following tips to enhance healthier bodies and minds

• Seek medical advice when feeling under the weather, including mental health concerns
• Communicate with friends and family even when faced with stressful situations
• Stay active through co-curricular activities
• Eat well, sleep enough, exercise regularly
• Maintain a positive mind and spirit

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