By Mpho Shelile  

MASERU – The Institute of Development Management (IDM) alongside Tunasafiri raised awareness about mental health at their fun walk. To instill education about mental health also make others aware of the triggers that can lead to mental health issues.

Mr. Thibeli Molapo — the Director of IDM in his opening remarks stated that they were supposed to celebrate World Mental Health Day earlier. However; due to some unforeseen issues, the celebration was postponed. He said to all remember that embracing mental health awareness is an ongoing process which involves personal growth and societal change. “We should commit to creating a world where mental health is treated with the same importance as physical health. By doing so, we can help individuals who are struggling with mental health issues receive the support and understanding they need. A testament to the saying ‘our mind our rights’”, said Mr. Molapo.

“For me, this time of year is often associated with growth, renewal, hope, and positivity—a perfect time to kick off Mental Health Awareness Day and a perfect time to focus on our mental health and wellness. Embracing mental health is a crucial step towards promoting inclusive well-being and reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Studies across the world indicate that 30% of the youth suffer from mental health problems. In Lesotho, about 57% of the youth have mental health issues but are not open to seeking help”, he declared.

The founder of Tunasafiri: an organization that helps mental health patients in their healing journey Miss Nthati Phakoe, in her remarks stated that self-care is essential for mental health and overall well-being. “I am encouraged to see more and more people prioritizing their mental health, just as they would their physical health. We have seen professional athletes, actors and actresses, and other high-profile public figures putting their jobs on hold to put their mental health first. This is such a healthy and important step because by raising awareness and acceptance of mental health, we not only empower ourselves but also help remove stigma. Enforcing the message that it is okay to not be okay and encourage people to seek help when they need it.”

“When we take care of our mental health, our physical and emotional health improves, we become more resilient and that makes it easier to find ways to manage the life stressors healthily and positively,” said Nthati.  She suggested a few strategies that one can use to maintain positive mental health; stating that the key is to try them and see what works, then put them into practice on a regular. She applauded IDM for their good work in educating their students about mental health, stating that tertiary education is the ultimate trigger on one’s health.

“There are different mental health conditions, different symptoms and treatment options. However, knowing what you are diagnosed with helps reduce misconceptions and misinformation. I am saying this to you guys to go get help if you are not feeling well and stay informed about mental health organizations, resources, and support networks in your community. There are other organizations like Tunasafiri out there ready to help you cope and know that you are not the only one suffering. So me sharing my personal experiences to reduce stigma and help others feel comfortable seeking help, is just one foot in the right direction”, she concluded.

Mahlape Monyane has battled mental health issues in the past. She stated that mental health begins at a very young age, and when one finally notices that they are not well the first thing they do is attempt to committing suicide, “Taking our own lives is not the answer. We should seek help, accept and love ourselves by focusing on self-care because it plays a huge part in our mental wellness. It is up to each one of us to be a lifeline and to share the commitment. To take care of ourselves and those around us. Think of it like the safety instructions we receive on an airplane for those who have boarded. We are told to put on our oxygen masks first before we can be of help to others. The same philosophy applies to taking care of our own needs, including mental health needs. Before being able to be fully present and supportive of others in our lives, we need to make sure we take care of our own health”, she advised.

Miss Refiloe ‘Mota a psychiatric nurse at Mohlomi Hospital, stated that most of their mental health patients are the youth. Most of them are in such a state because of drugs. They are initially not aware of the adverse effects of drug abuse. She said that it is important to check in on loved ones and ask them about their well-being. “Talk to your kids about their mental health. We know that 1 in 5 kids are experiencing behavioral health issues, such as anxiety or depression which were further worsened during the covid19 pandemic. When we notice that our friends and families are struggling, we should reach out to help. Getting help during the early stages of mental illness, or at the first signs of symptoms is important. This can prevent those symptoms from developing further. We should encourage each other to seek help”, Miss ‘Mota said.

She advised the youth to practice patience, kindness, and empathy toward others because it may just make a life-changing difference to someone. “Because of misconceptions and stigma surrounding mental health issues, people sometimes suffer in silence and do not seek treatment for their conditions. We are very happy that some of you guys are taking the initiative to help raise awareness about mental illness.” She concluded by advising people to create a supportive and inclusive environment where individuals can feel safe talking about their mental health concerns. Foster an atmosphere of empathy, understanding, and kindness just like Tunasafiri and other institutes out there.