Society often concludes that someone is depressed when he or she is sad or has frequent mood swings. If someone is constantly afraid or does something unusual, they are classified as mentally ill.

But what exactly are these problems? What are some examples of mental health problems? How can we approach someone and offer them appropriate help?

According to Emelienne Mukansoro, psychotherapist at Never Again Rwanda (NAR), there are three major mental disorders;

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Someone who has this is likely to have one or more of the following symptoms; An ongoing reflection of memories that come in the form of nightmares and frequent thoughts that make it difficult to go about their normal life. Shying away or fleeing from a place or object such as a machete, knives, farm tool, or other weapon that reminds them of a painful or traumatic experience in the past. Constant terror, self-loathing, loneliness or preoccupation with terrible events and the fear that they will repeat themselves.

Anxiety: Extreme concern and discomfort about the possibility of bad things happening, such as a family tragedy, illness, or job loss. Get angry about anything, have thoughts of suicide, and may even attempt suicide. Self-isolation or a sharp increase or decrease in eating habits.

Depression: Negative thoughts and feelings, extreme exhaustion, cravings for alcohol, and substance abuse, to name a few, are all signs that a person is depressed.

In order to recognize such behaviors in ourselves or in others, it is important to remember that everyone is different and these signs may show differently from others.

So when we’re trying to help a relative, friend, work colleague, or loved one, it’s okay to realize that one approach may not work for one person, but it does for another.

According to Mukansoro, the tips below are how to reach out to someone to deal with the aforementioned issues, but they are not exhaustive;

Pay attention to what they say: allow one to open up to you in a safe and unbiased space. There should be no interruptions such as phone calls, children crying, noise, music, etc.

Do not apply pressure: allow them to share as much as they want, but don’t ask for more until they’re ready and don’t be ashamed of what they say. Let them lead the discussion at their own pace.

Don’t solve their problems: Do not try to diagnose them or their feelings with your own conclusions or solutions.

Suggest professional assistance: it has to be your choice. If they agree, you can begin the process by providing them with information or making phone contact with a therapist on their behalf, or even by accompanying them on their first visit.

Mental health problems are especially prevalent today due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely affected our lives and has stressed and overwhelmed many people.

Mukansoro suggests adding physical activity to the routine as it can help stimulate the brain and allow one to work on or let go of one’s emotions, which can prevent, alleviate, or overcome mental illness.

It also encourages resting, traveling, singing, dancing, painting, journaling, pasturing cattle (cows or goats), visiting friends and family / socializing and / or playing as great examples of ways to relax.

To seek help, a person must first recognize that they have a problem that needs to be addressed, as well as a willingness to seek support and know where to look for it. A family member, professional counselor / therapist, and / or other loved one can intervene if necessary.

Institutions like NAR strive to contribute to the mental health of the Rwandan people. They offer group and individual therapy through a team of psychotherapists who work across the country and are always available to provide free professional psychological and psychosocial care to anyone who needs it.

They offer both virtual and face-to-face advice, and a physical wellness center is slated to open in December 2021. Visit her online wellness website for assistance.

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