Mental health and its misuse

Mental health affects our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. More often than not, adults you meet every day have had mental illnesses in the past. Whether when they broke up with their partners, lacked financial support, got bullied on the internet, or exposed to severe working environments. Depression and anxiety are the most common forms of mental illnesses.

Personally, I’ve experienced mental illnesses on numerous occasions. Just to name a few: I have been depressed due to lack of stable income. I felt terrible and entered the depression zone when I finally came to the realization about the death of my parents, and that I’ll never see nor talk to them ever again. I have felt anxious from the fear of letting down my longtime friends. 

Melkizedek thinking deeply about his future
This is me in 2017 at Olympic Estate, Kibera. Picture was taken by Alex Oburu.

The COVID-19 pandemic increased the cases of mental illnesses. People lost jobs, hence, experienced hardships providing for themselves and their loved ones. Lockdowns meant that people in long-distance relationships couldn’t meet as before, and this brought about mental tortures to those involved.

Young adults fond of socializing in schools and universities had a hard time doing so due to the closure of the learning institutions (this led to some turning to substance abuse). Catching up via Zoom isn’t just as immersive and fun as doing so physically.

On the flip side, some people have taken advantage of the rise and sensitivity of the phrase “mental health” to their advantage. I’ve been worn and bored by the term that I encourage my peers to explain to me further what they mean when they say they’re experiencing (or experienced) mental health issues. I’ve seen people use the term to cover up for their failures and wrong doings – especially when facing criticism for their works.

Put another way, the term “mental health” has become the perfect card to pull during times of adversity so the crowd can outright sympathize with you, killing their sense of providing constructive feedback. I must admit: I once tried to use the dirty trick – I felt guilty and disappointed with myself.

As a result, you’ll probably not hear me say “I’m experiencing mental health issues” unless I’m addressing an unfamiliar group of people that I wouldn’t want to know about my health, and even under such a scenario I’d rather try not to use the term “mental health.”

People with inadequate information and/or are subscribed to the cancel culture movement misuse and exploit the phrase. Either they’re afraid of receiving constructive feedback or want to cover up for their mistakes.

Same applies to people who aimlessly use the term “toxic work environments”. Use of strong words by founders, executives, or project managers doesn’t always equate to a toxic leadership or work environment.

However, my sentiments above don’t completely rule out genuine uses of the phrases “mental health” and “toxic work environments.” I’m just saying that it’s important to question why someone is using them.

Thanks to Dickson Morande for reading the initial draft of this article and providing valuable feedback.

By Melkizedek Mirasi

Lifelong learner.

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