By Howard Mwesigwa
Recently, the President of Uganda H.E Yoweri Museveni revised some of the directives he had earlier issued in a bid to check the national resurgence in corona-virus cases but schools, universities and other tertiary institutions remain closed . In fact, His Excellency the President further intimated that the opening of Universities will be contingent on mass vaccination of students. This means that Universities are likely to remain closed for a considerable period of time. This is bound to have a toll on university students across the board, whose future seems more uncertain than ever. It’s against that backdrop that a conversation on mental health must be undertaken.
According to the studies done by the UK Mental Health Foundation during the very first lockdown, it was discovered that many young people are likely to experience loneliness during lockdown particularly as a result of the restrictions on physical contact with their friends, families, peers, and boredom in concert with the frustration associated with the inability to engage in many of their habitual leisure activities.
In fact, according to the KFF Health Tracking Poll (2020), 4 in 10 people of those that had undertaken the poll reported symptoms of anxiety and depression attributable to the lockdown and restrictions on their daily lives. However, the mental health narrative in Africa generally, seems more intricate than that.
Studies by the Centre for Mental Health Research & Initiative (CEMRI) done in 2019 revealed that the notion of mental health has historically and contemporarily attracted a plethora of socio-mythical constructs across the African Continent. The commonest of these myths is the view that ‘mental health’ is the white man’s business.
This particular myth assumes that Africans are so resilient emotionally and psychologically robust that mental health is a non-issue in Africa. That’s not true, or is it? In fact the study showed that depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other related disorders are as common in Africa as they are elsewhere in the world, only that the ancillary likelihood of stigmatization is much higher in Africa that elsewhere in the world. This widespread stigmatization serves to explain the silence of the many young people in Africa grappling with chronic depression and recurrent anxiety.
As young people, we ought to open our eyes to this reality and refuse to die in silence. Ultimately, we’ve compiled a list of ploys that could help you cope and stay afloat in the midst of these rather unpalatable times, as you await the opening of Universities.
The first could be venturing into a new hobby. This could be learning a foreign language online or a short online course in something you are passionate about, a new genre of novels, movies or music. The second is adopting a regular schedule for exercising. These could range from simple indoor workouts to group jogging challenges. The third, is that you should not be ashamed of seeking professional psychological assistance when you start to feel like you can no longer stay afloat!