Although January is behind us, it’s never too late to revaluate some of our new year resolutions and step away from the unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves year after year. It’s okay,
we’ve all been there before.
It’s no surprise we leap into the new year, ready to take on the world with promises to be better, as it is forever, followed by a holiday season filled with indulgence. That over-indulgence tends to make us feel guilty -particularly the excess consumption of food and drink. Leaving many feeling like a detox or cleanse is in order. And what better time than the new year to start cleansing habits, bodies, and minds.

The new year provides a fresh start effect, the idea that we are ‘offered’ a blank slate, a new beginning. And yes, this landmark represents a ‘rebirth’ which is comforting and appealing to most- that there is time to go back to the drawing board and make the necessary changes. The comfort draws from the fact that one can almost psychologically distance themselves from the “old you”- past mistakes and failures are now associated with the person you were and not with the person you aim to be. The appeal, of course, is wrapped around the opportunity to do so. We view our lives in stages, so an occasion like New Year that causes a break in time, a division of our past and future is a ‘chance’ for any human seeking redemption.

However, even with the glittering hope, that ‘chance’ provides, turning a new leaf comes with a new set of pressures. We are impatient with the change we seek, which often leads us to set unrealistic goals and achievements. Often, very little introspection goes into our goal setting- it’s usually vague and basic: this year I want to work harder, I want to get a promotion, I want to eat better, drink less, exercise more.

The first problem our above goals present is that they’re usually associated with appearance, work, or personal pursuits. Our goals rarely center around our mental health or share any connection to spiritual atonement. It is far easier for one to criticize their outer appearance than to look within. People will always notice the change on our exterior and I suppose that motivates the change. It holds more weight when others witness our change than ourselves- absurd right?

Our second issue is ambiguity and the lack of specific, clear goals. Our goals tend to be massive changes that are often daunting, to begin with- because we simply don’t know where to begin. We usually last a few weeks and then it’s a wrap.

The third problem occurs whilst struggling with our goal and eventually when we have given up. It’s the negative self-talk and criticizing we constantly do when we feel like we are not meeting our goals. As soon as we feel like we’re drifting from our goals or breaking promises to ourselves we start to affect our mental health with how hard we beat ourselves up. We are our biggest critics, the failure of not having achieved your goal can lead to self-loathing. We begin to feel worthless. Many end up feeling worse than they did before they set out their goals, merely because they feel like their incapable of the change they desire. Even after dedicating time to set goals, they have still fallen short. We speak the negativity into existence and end up with a cynical view of new year resolutions. Until next year.

So how do we set ourselves up for success when it comes to new year resolutions.

We begin with examining ourselves and observing things we would like to change not only physically, but mentally too. Picture the person you aspire to be v.s who you are now and create a vision of what you seek to change whether that be how you communicate with others, being kinder to yourself, or making time for self-care. Do not merely make your goals work orientated or physical- there is a fulfillment you will only unlock if you include your mental health too. Making it a priority will, in turn, service your other goals.

Making specific goals is key.
If you wish to limit your screen time this year, jot down the activities you aim to replace it with. If you want to make sleep a priority this year, look into a nightly routine that will allow you to rest earlier and easier. If your goal is to lose weight instead of setting a vague goal of exercise more- look into the specific weight range you desire to be, how often you can exercise- realistically and what workouts will help you achieve that goal.
Break your goals down into smaller attainable steps. Go into detail on how, when, and where you’ll achieve them. This makes one more motivated when your goals are not running away from you but rather can be achieved. For example, if you wish to change your drinking habits instead of going cold turkey which is harder to maintain, rather look at cutting down consumption or make a plan to enjoy it in moderation.

Introduce a pathway to reach your goal by adding motivational factors like rewards and incentives. If you meet a deadline or unlock a milestone you are allowed x,y, and z. Be fun and creative with your goals that way it doesn’t feel like a tedious task but rather something you look forward to. It is imperative that you feel connected to your goals that way achieving them becomes more personally rewarding.

Work on reframing your negative talks and cutting down on comparisons. Speak healthy positive- talk and look into affirmations/ mantras that can get inspired when it comes to your goals. Remove the doubt and criticism by being kinder to yourself. Do not place unnecessary pressure if it feels daunting look at reevaluating the goal. It’s not giving up if you’re modifying your goal so that it is more attainable. Draw from inspirations and look at motivational material on positive self-talk. Get your head in a space where it can accommodate your goals and plans.
Do not watch others, stay in your lane and know that your goals are tailored to you specifically, do not be easily moved by what the next person is doing. Like you, their goal is personal and may not match what you need.

Lastly- accept your failures and learn to forgive yourself. You may fall short but do not become your own demise. Instead, look at where you went wrong, what you may need to change about the goal itself, and go from there. Adjust your goals and make peace with the why. We tend to look deeply into our shortcomings and failures, hence why we choose certain new year resolutions- but we must acknowledge our growth and improvement too. You may have not reached it but you still got closer.
The glass is half full not half empty.



This week on the 2nd of December, we celebrated the ‘International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.’ The day intends to raise awareness about contemporary forms of slavery we face today while remembering our painful past and all affected. Slavery has existed for centuries dating back to our first civilization. Defined by the “illegal exploitation of people for personal/commercial gain.” Just by the first glance of that definition, it’s no surprise that this type of oppression remains. We have repeatedly witnessed, that when it comes to money- humanity pays the price. It’s naive to believe slavery has met its end when many are enslaved today. It may be abolished, in a legal sense around the world, but it is still allowed. If it continues to bring about profit and generate billions annually in the 21st century, then, of course, it still exists.

Today modern slavery entraps women, men, and children all over the globe. We experience it in many different forms, although human trafficking serves as an umbrella term for the types of slavery that ensue. The illegal transporting (in-country or out) of persons to profit from their work or service has created a pool of reasons for traffickers to thrive. The unlawful recruitment and transfer of people aim to serve forced labor, sex work, organ removal, child marriage, child soldiers, and debt bondage activities.

Forced labor= Labor trafficking is a common form of modern slavery that exists worldwide. Many are captured against their will or coerced by manipulation and false promises of ‘opportunity.’ In poverty-driven communities, the need to escape hardship provides a ‘hopeful’ attitude that accepts any offer to support their families. Here, many meet human deceit and exploitation first-hand, held captive and forced to perform work under the threat of punishment. Identity documentation and any belongings – removed.

Sex work= This type of slavery exchanges sexual activity for money. Mainly women and children forced to perform sexual acts, non-consensually. Human beings traded globally to partake in prostitution become trapped in a cycle of abuse and violence. Innocence stripped.

Organ removal= Black market trading of organs illegally services the demand of human transplants. ‘The taking of one’s life to serve another.’ Organ harvesting involves the trafficking of people to remove their internal organs for transplant. Supply does not meet the demand, making it a more profitable business for traffickers in this trade.

Child marriage= Abducted children (mainly girls) against their consent are to wed adults. Girls and boys from developing countries are subjected to early marriages where they become slaves to their ‘spouses.’
Children coerced into such unions are expected to engage in sexual activities against their will and live in conditions where their lives are ‘lived for their spouses.’ Their spouses have ownership, they must serve them in every way.

Child soldiers= Adults continue to recruit children to do their dirty work. Children are trafficked to forcibly join the armed forces, rebel groups, or paramilitary organizations as pawns used in combat to kill and injure.

Debt bondage= Debt slavery is common and occurs when a person is forced to work or provide a service to pay off a prior debt. The idea of trapping individuals in poorer communities by offering them money and tricking them to do illegal work. Most get paid little to nothing and what they earn goes towards their debt. They became owned by their debtors. No control.

After looking at each form of slavery, I’m sure you can deduce the adverse effects it may have on one’s mental health. The violation of basic human rights leaves many survivors of contemporary slavery with lasting psychological problems. Most experience the onset of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Survivors face disabling mental health problems that hinder their entrance back into society. Support is usually given in terms of basic living needs, whereas psychological needs are overlooked. If we had to go through Maslows Hierchary of Needs- none are met when survivors first escape. They only have the clothes on their back, saddled with physical and psychological damage.
Trafficked individuals encounter multiple forms of violence such as physical, verbal, psychological, and sexual abuse. Constant violence can induce post-traumatic stress disorder, which produces symptoms including nightmares, flashbacks, and unmanageable thoughts. It directly affects the way they begin to adjust and cope in society. Many become consumed by unwanted thoughts of their painful trauma that inhibits one’s growth.

The community plays a vital role in supporting survivors’ well-being and easing their transition. Survivors of modern slavery suffer enough isolation during their enslavement to be subjected to public scrutiny and stigma. (Usually the case). Remember, survivors are wrestling with their trauma and coming to terms with their past before they can better serve their present & future. Returning home after what they have endured can be frightening when dealing with the added burden of society’s perception of you. Instead of being celebrated for surviving, victims face rejection from their communities. Through discrimination, communities target the little survivors have left – family and values. Reintegration can be challenging, especially for sex trafficking survivors, viewed as “damaged goods.” Being persistently disregarded by society can lead to a deeper stigma within one, where they start to write themselves off. They enter a state of self-judgment and labeling where they believe they’re far too ‘damaged to be repaired.’ On top of existing, mental health problems, further alienation from society intensifies one’s depression. It is sometimes enough to lead survivors into a dark hole battling suicidal thoughts and possible attempts.

We must maintain an open mind to pain – we cannot understand and fathom. After being dehumanized and treated as an object, it is our civic duty to show humanity and rally among survivors in unity. As you might expect survivors lack trust and human connection after their experiences. They may not be inclined to accept help from others and form honest relationships because they are constantly on guard and suspect the worse of individuals. As most have endured the worst, humans have to offer. You can imagine how social stigma escalates their mistrust.

Ravaged with anxiety from experiences that have stripped any normalcy away, it is difficult for survivors to live with freedom again. One may be regularly triggered, losing control of their ability to respond to a situation. Responses – are led by fear and worry. A feeling ‘NOT’ easily shaken and detrimental to day-to-day functioning. Intense panic attacks and excessive worry about being re-trafficked is the reality for most survivors. For the child soldier forced to pull the trigger, the young lady abused by her pimp, or the father coerced into illegal work with the threat of his family’s lives- fear runs deep. The emotional scars of their journey heighten survivors’ risk of adopting substance abuse habits to escape their thoughts. Cycles are created, falling into a pit of self-criticizing, echoing the idea that you are worthless. Children survivors feel robbed of their innocence, believing that they are defined by the crimes they are forced to commit. When you spend a large amount of your development in some of the cruelest and darkest parts of the world – it definitely can make one lose hope.

How do we begin to assist in rebuilding the lives of survivors?

We can start by tackling access to mental health services for survivors. While prioritizing the socio-economic needs one must look to heal the tool necessary for growth. ‘The mind.’ The investment into one’s mental well-being is essential. Survivors in developing countries must receive support from governments, in the form of mental health care. Professionals together with survivors can work towards unique treatment that addresses the different trauma and victimization faced. Therapy must focus on building survivors’ self-confidence and self-esteem. It is important that survivors feel powerful again and begin to respect themselves. Individuals need to understand their worth and establish their purpose. Victims of modern-day slavery need to break away from their former identity as a slave and look to rebuild the individual they aspire to be.
Support groups and counseling can effectively channel one’s understanding to identify what those goals and aspirations may be. There is a chance at a beautiful rebirth of identity, where the survivor can work at readjusting their self-perception. Depending on the patient’s response to treatment, participation in local advocacy and activism may be suggested – as a means of taking back their power and life. Using your trauma to shed light on the situation and create awareness among the community. Note, that it is only helpful for a survivor if their progress is promising and there is no risk of retriggering their trauma. With individuals who have experienced so much isolation, finding a sense of belonging and rebuilding healthy relationships is imperative. The assistance of the community is necessary. Mental health facilities need to focus on patients relearning of social connection and their relation to others. By building a network of people and a village of support, together with services, communities can welcome survivors with warmth and acceptance. Victims have reported being locked in rooms, so learning how to re-socialize can help them curate meaningful relationships. Peer visits by mentors and survivors can give those currently affected – hope and a chance at a new life. Being an ear for survivors allows them to find ways to express their experiences providing relief. Many choose to suppress and block their trauma which can hinder their healing. It is a matter of timing. Survivors must feel ready to share rather than being pushed to recall.

We need to look at collectively using our resources to train mental health professionals in treating victims of modern-day slavery. We must identify their needs and curate effective therapies. In terms of access, we have to apply pressure on the government to provide free facilities that target low economic developing countries. All barriers like finance and language must be recognized and solved to ensure there is no discrimination when it comes to receiving treatment. It needs to encompass all. We cannot further marginalize victims of abuse instead, we should welcome and offer them a fighting chance at reintegration into society. Law enforcement together with policy reform need to focus on actively reducing the number of people trafficked. But while it continues to be our reality, we must prepare for the consequences.

Mind Over Matter



I want to start by leaning into the joy and embracing the strength women possess before we unpack the second pandemic that is taking place. I am fortunate to know and love a wide range of phenomenal women. Women who inspire me daily. Women who motivate me to take up space and use my voice at every table. I am constantly in awe of their ability to navigate several crucial roles in society seamlessly. They have proven their adaptability through the ages and continue to illuminate us all with their light.

I am blessed and honoured to have grown up around remarkable women. I have watched my gran & mum hustle and switch gears with ease to be everything I need in any given situation. I saw them be brave even in times when it was hard to be. I have witnessed their hard- work and reaped the benefits of their struggle. I observed them in the heat of the moment become problem solvers, quick thinkers with solutions. I’ve received their unfiltered advice and guidance even when I didn’t want to. I have leaned on both their shoulders and given them an earful. Still, they listened. I have experienced their natural-born nurture in full force, too many times to mention. I have seen them play the role of fathers with such security that I never felt the gap.

They, like many women, play a central role in society which has provided stability and progress. Women have proven themselves in all parts of society and afforded us a voice that we would have never had.
Women everywhere have fought a long fight that gifted us with the ultimate opportunity. The chance to freely participate as active members of society. History details the obstacles of gender inequality and years of oppression that women endured. They fought for their seat at the table and decided to make the change. A change that in addition to taking care of themselves through the fight for basic human rights, they never dropped the ball on their families. They consistently took care of their homes while fighting to be heard. A true testament to their inner strength, tremendous resilience, and selfless nature.

With the crucial contribution, women continue to make, you would think they would be valued and appreciated, yet they are met with violence- at the hands of men. I’m gonna have to throw some shade on men, but it’s all factual. If you’re offended, then you’re probably part of the problem too.
Men have silenced women for years with violence. A patriarchal world that holds them on a pedestal despite their injustice and deems women as second-class citizens.
Yes, we live in a male dominate society where men are offered respect and considered ‘strong.’ But true strength exists in the battered and bruised women who volunteer themselves in the protection of their children. Real strength- lies in the women who place a meal in front of their abuser each night, plotting their next move. Or the pure strength it takes for a woman to refuse to taint the image of their child’s father (the abuser).
The force you use on a female is a sign of weakness if anything.

Women have been victims of violence for as long as our species has existed. Beaten into submission. Men have built their manhood around being the provider and dominant decision-maker of their household. Most, contributing in a financial sense. When you think about how a woman participates in a household, the idea of them being inferior even in a traditional nature is absurd.
Violence against women is a hidden crisis that has no limits geographically and culturally. Across the globe, women still grapple with inequality. Socially excuses have been made for men while women are seen as feeble. Let’s allow that to sink in. So a man taking advantage of a woman has been translated in society as a ‘woman being weak.’ Automatically the narrative is switched to – what did she do to provoke him?
With a world stat of 1 in 3 women experiencing violence sexually or physically by an intimate partner – we still out here trying to flip the script. No wonder why fewer than 40% of women subjected to violence seek help. Who wants help from a society that blames you. Women paralyzed by fear of opening up and seeking help are shut down and persecuted. It’s a vicious cycle that is an everyday battle for women worldwide.

Men’s manhood has been reshaped with the participation of women in society. You can imagine that doesn’t sit well with many of their egos. So they continue to assert their dominance by using force on women with a false idea that they own them. Anyone who knows me personally knows I reject traditional roles of women and men. It is in these twisted beliefs (gendered roles) that have further intensified the issue of violence against women. Allowing society to determine our worth and place in this world.

I’ve witnessed this in my community, where rigid gender roles set the expectation that women must be submissive to men. They must obey their husbands and not go against their decision-making. If you dare to, violence is exercised as a means of control and punishment. It makes me think of that line in the Great Gatsby, “And I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” An important line in the book which illustrates the value men place on women in a narrow appearance-based view. All they could offer is beauty to barter a mate.

In many countries, women must become mothers and bear children. They are never to deny their husbands sex. A falsehood that a man can determine how and when you use your body. You see it creep up in your upbringing. Growing up, my family rarely approved of me wearing my hair down and dressing in skirts or shorts. A fear they had of the predators it may attract. Even with the freedom women now have, many still wrestle with the simple act of choosing what to wear. Our voices, silenced by the confinements of how we should appear in society. The provocative dressing of a woman is used as an excuse and means to justify male sexual entitlement. As if our safety is dependent on a button-up knitted sweater. Every day you hear of men forcing their way with women. Such a heinous act is reduced to the clothes she is wearing.

Something that exacerbates the issue of violence is the presence of poverty. Women are often dependent on their abusers financially. They endure the violence for the sake of their kid’s survival. It sets up a crippling cycle. Leave the abuse but risk being homeless. Or have a roof over your head but endure violence that affects both you and your children. This type of trauma can affect one’s ability to relate to others and their view of themselves. It can alter one’s view of men (male or female) permanently. A lot of women grow up with versions of the same man. Women’s first experience with violence or neglect may be with their father or other male family members. They may mature to find similar partners, behavior they are accustomed to that feels like home.
From a male perspective, they may be more inclined to engage in abusive behavior because of a history of exposure to child maltreatment. Many witness family violence that becomes a norm and is eventually transferred into their homes. “Hurt people hurt people.”

The unseen damages of violence penetrate deeper than the physical injuries sustained for both women and children. The psychological and emotional impacts women suffer from can have long-term mental health effects. The abuse – whether physical, sexual, or verbal may increase one’s risk of developing a mental health condition. Some of which include depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety & borderline personality disorders. In severe cases that go unchecked, this can lead to self-injury and suicide attempts. Many women engage in substance abuse by misusing alcohol and drugs to escape the thoughts and feelings that haunt them. Abused women may want to fill the void by chasing highs to avoid memories that could cause them to relive traumatic moments. Survivors of abuse experience sleeping difficulties, severe fear, and stress. Some struggle with eating disorders as they wrestle with finding a sense of control. Eating for many is ‘something they can control’ either in a restrictive eating manner or through overeating as a coping mechanism. Many find comfort in food and feel like this can bring them joy in times of anxiety, stress, and fear. Temporary pleasures to mask pain and trauma can lead to habits that become difficult to break. However, often this feels like the only option.
Women turn to short fixes, especially in my community, due to the lack of access to facilities and programs that assist victims of abuse.

In my country, where this type of violence is rife – we are not equipped with the necessary amenities that provide a hands-on approach for women. Many come from disadvantaged and undeveloped communities, where paying for professional help is not an option. When putting food on the table is a struggle. We need a combination of prevention, response approaches as well as policy development to tackle this issue. In a weak economic climate and a tight job market, most women need financial security to relieve themselves from their current situations. The government has a lot of ground to cover. Government has to prioritize funding shelters, existing non-profit organizations, and professional mental health services for women. Aid programs that are currently available for women and give women more options. The same energy we put into vaccination programs for Covid 19 is what we need for gender-based violence. Communities have to rally together with both men and women- silent men are part of the problem. If all men don’t wish to be painted with the same brush, then they must show in their actions that they are different. They must show their support for women and call out the acts of other men. This growing issue must be a matter of urgency for individuals, families, communities, and the government. We must work in unison to protect our women and children.



Intolerance has been a thorn in our side for centuries. An infection in humanity that spreads through race, religion, culture, sex, and opposing ideologies. All of which have punctured our society, cutting deeper into an already wounded world.

It starts with warp perceptions like the unwillingness to accept contrary beliefs and views of others. Slowly brewing in the minds and hearts of many, this inner conflict creates turmoil, an emotional disturbance that rattles the soul. The guarded judgments erupt into hate speech that snowballs through communities. The verbal harassment escalates to acts of violence, and that my friends is how we wage war based on intolerance.

The proof is in our history. Wars, fuelled by the rejection of others whom we discriminate against and deem inferior. Regimes that exploited and tortured communities through the ages based on the color of one’s skin.
Senseless killing due to contrasting religious beliefs. The massacre of Jewish communities because of anti-Semitism. Hate crimes and the mistreatment of people through acts of homophobia. An expression of contempt for foreigners led by xenophobic attacks.
Humankind consistently chooses alienation and violence.

Intolerance is a grave concern for a society that is still bent on division and segregation. Do not be fooled by the facade we have managed to build. With our history, it’s no surprise that we still face an everyday battle with long-held prejudice. Quite frankly, we have produced generations of people filled with antipathy and hatred for others. We have modeled behavior that forms the notion that people are less than because of a,b and c. We have created a, b, and c. Boxes and labels that fit people into categories. A narcissistic approach that distinguishes classes of people. We see it in all frameworks of society, for example, a race distinction on examination papers or political preferences in public censuses. There is always an either-or. Tick one, pick one.

Take the simple act of meeting someone for the first time, we immediately determine their race, weight, gender, sexual preference, and religious beliefs. Our mind spirals into judgment mode, where we must ascertain what and who they are?
It’s no longer acceptable to just be a ‘fellow human.’ The specifics are important. We are obsessed with labels and providing pre-made boxes for everyone. The crazy part is that even with the knowledge that we are complex intricate beings – we still seek ‘the need’ to simplify one’s uniqueness into labels that do not adequately capture the dynamic essence of a human. We conjure up stereotypes based on our boxes that further separate and generalize one’s individuality. These labels portray ‘superficial dimensions’ of a human- income, fashion, size, etc. and do not define who you are. It diminishes one’s character and identity. Imagine being reduced to preconceived notions based on a postcode or tax bracket. Determinants of who you are and what you can offer. Well, if you still have the luxury of ‘imagining’ it – lucky you.
It’s the hasty ease of placing judgment and classifying people that affords us a feeling of superiority. I guess this falsehood allows one to sleep better ‘knowing’ that they are better than someone else. Now, if that doesn’t scream ego protection & a lack of perspective then I don’t know what does.

I know of people that ‘solve’ their intolerance by simply shutting down controversial conversations. Note – (The controversial part is that they refuse to accept viewpoints that differ from theirs).
A movie scene comes to mind here. Stay with me. In Sleepers, the barman (following a request from John) tells the two gentlemen sitting nearby “You know the rules, no politics, no religion.” A mindset too many share. A feeble attempt at keeping your intolerance masked by not entering a discussion. Ignorant- fearful views that must be met with education and enlightenment. Let’s not forget individual awareness. If you are easily moved by an opposing belief, this sounds like a ‘you problem rather than them’. You are wrestling with an internal conflict that gives you a distorted view that your way is the right way. We must tackle this intolerance by starting with an understanding of ourselves.
With ‘true’ introspection, your beliefs and values should not shake by the first utterance of disagreement.

A matter of this magnitude does not only require individual change but a shift in governance too. It is the government’s responsibility to cultivate a socially cohesive environment, one that prioritizes unity in the nation and equality for all. Too often, we have witnessed self-serving governments with divisive rhetoric create tension and rifts resulting in civil wars.
A leader who is divided, only serves a favored part of the nation, usually the majority. This sets the tone that even the government whom we “entrust” has a preference. When intolerance in society starts at the top through law and policy, dogmatic thinking has a ripple effect. It is here where we become pawns in a mob mentality that benefits the initiators.

It doesn’t help that media exacerbates the issue. Turn on the news and you’ll see a broken world- why would they want peace when chaos sells. Social media has several new platforms that accelerate the spread of intolerance. A place for extremists to spur each other, feeding off each other’s hatred. A digital space that can be used to criticize one another. More access, more intolerance.
We need local education to combat this indifference. Knowledge of different cultures and viewpoints should be a focus. We must aim to spread the importance of essential virtues and what it means to practice acceptance and respect as tenets for a peaceful society. As a community, we have to remind each other of our similarities and appreciate the differences. Communication is key for any type of relationship to prosper, what we are facing is a breakdown of our interconnectedness as habitants of this planet. The urgency to restore understanding is our only hope at diversity flourishing.

Mind Over Matter.



Spare me if I sound like a broken record, but I’ve been reflecting a lot on the type of world we live in and what’s become of it. I guess the more you look, the more you see. I only have myself to blame.

We live in a divided world, a world full of harsh realities and acts of cruelty. Though the Earth continues to rotate on its axis and a new day dawns, lately, despite the light, darkness prevails. The unfortunate truth – yes we have taken steps to ‘advance’ society but at what cost?


In a criticizing and judgment-filled world, we feel good about pointing the finger and having someone or something to blame. It avoids the hard truth of looking within when your thoughts are distracted by the opinions you have of others. It’s a common tactic that allows one to escape their introspection by focusing on everyone else. The same principle applies to our mindset on change. We often fall short. We ‘hide’ behind the idea of monumental change, change in the masses that we deem as the only effective way to make a difference. Blaming our societal backslide on the lack of collective change instead of prioritizing change on a smaller scale, a little bit closer to home. Change that starts with you. We need not aim big when we lack the fundamentals.

In a selfish world currently spiraling while societal cracks deepen, I believe the call for action begins within. We have been leading with our untamed ‘all too human’ dark side but, we must balance society again. The scales have been tipping too far on one side. Our world is suffocating with human greed & the desire for power that operates from a level of selfishness that ultimately fucks over the next person. The cycle continues.
So what can we do to tip the scales in favour of all mankind?

The need to gravitate towards humanity couldn’t come at a more pressing time. Through the trauma and crises that unfold, we need a way to connect again by heading back to the basics.
I’m not talking about the type of kindness you practice when others are watching or when you expect something in return but rather the good old-fashioned kind that operates from a pure place. A place – without the incessant need of gratitude and reciprocation. It’s as if kindness has become a nostalgic childhood memory. We reminisce on our days of sharing and offering compassion in simple acts. Rummaging through our memories, trying to recall our youthful innocence when we helped the elderly with their grocery bags and gave up our seats for the old, ill, or pregnant. Or the day we allowed someone to cut in front of us in a line or stopped to assist someone lost, whichever act it may be, nowadays it seems like a foreign concept. Nevertheless, its indeed society’s cure.

I’ll be honest anyone who knows me would hesitate to label me as a kind individual. I would have to agree. For a long time I struggled with being kind, often falling victim to my trauma and expecting the worst from everyone. I had a twisted view of associating kindness with weakness. Headstrong on being resilient, I didn’t expect kindness or practice it. Instead, I heard Ellen end each show with the words ‘Be Kind’ but failed to see the need. Things changed when I realized the turmoil I saw in the world was the projection of what I felt inside. An aspect (kindness) I demanded to see but never devoted myself to doing. We must inspire a kinder world by normalizing kindness among ourselves. I have since owned that fault and continue to work on it. We are constantly growing and evolving it’s never too late to embrace your good nature by showing compassion. Begin with the understanding that everyone walks a different path unique to them. It’s not your place to judge their experience but rather to offer empathy. Life presents ups and downs acknowledge that everyone goes through pain and difficulties, but choose whether you’re going to add to it or lend a helping hand.
Know that you cannot walk their path but you can lighten the load. An idea that has motivated me in my pursuit of being kind.

In terms of mental health, the benefits of both giving and receiving kindness are endless. Being kind not only gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart, but it improves your emotional and mental well-being. You could be in a negative space when a kind act you perform, impacts the next person and encourages you to focus on the positive. Being caring and empathetic removes the negative energies and vibes you may be experiencing. There is no room for intense emotions like anger or hate when and after a good deed is in effect. Welcome the good energies and use them to attract more positive vibes. I’m a firm believer in the idea that the vibe you give out is the vibe you’ll attract. Put it to work and tell me if you disagree.

Acts of kindness improve one’s physical health, believe it or not. Think about it, stressed individuals often experience headaches or muscle tension. But their side- effects are reduced through good deeds that produce endorphins in your body. Endorphins and happy hormones relieve the stress and ease both mental and physical tension. Many individuals who experience depression and anxiety feel isolated. Being kind serves as an antidote that offers a sense of belonging, it provides purpose and makes one feel valued. The power of altruism is unmatched. Rooted in our ancestry and evolution, altruistic values have a compelling hold on humanity. Altruism is our unselfish concern for others. It is the desire to promote others’ well-being even at the risk of your own. Like the time you gave your lunch away at school, it served to aid someone’s hunger at the expense of you being hungry. It is a core value that makes us uniquely human and has sustained our species survival. We naturally tend to cooperate but are motivated by competition.
Behaving in an altruistic manner boosts our self-esteem and encourages selfless acts in the community. These are the type of ripple effects we need.

We must be kinder to ourselves.

We are often our worse critics picking ourselves apart and rejecting the ‘undesirable traits.’ We need to make peace with every aspect of ourselves, the good, the bad, and the ugly. When we make friends with the parts we dismiss, it allows us to heal and accept ourselves, making us more compassionate.
The way you feel about yourself improves with kindness. We feel proud of demonstrating goodwill and showing up for each other. It provides an interconnectedness that together we lack.

Let’s use World Kindness Day to remind us that we possess the power to make a difference. Start by calling a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while or complimenting a stranger. Try letting someone jump the queue in the supermarket or open the door for the next person. We have to stir the change in ourselves before we tackle the world.



Stress is a feeling we all know too well. Defined by emotional and mental strain, it’s our response to the challenges/demands of life. A taxing emotion identified by mental tension and intense anxiety. I think it’s fair to say its familiarity has surfaced more so in our present-day world with all the curveballs recently thrown. We got a global game of dodgeball going on. If it’s not the pandemic, it’s the ever-pressing climate crisis or world hunger that gnaws at the back of our minds. The current state of our world provides an endless list of stresses. Stress is everywhere. In each hospital ward, broken home, voting poll, school corridor, or work office stress exists.

So why aren’t we talking about it enough?

Superficial conversations mask our vulnerabilities and fill the silence. “How are you?” “I’m fine,” mean-while you’re barely coping, rather than engaging in meaningful conversation, we believe the whole world is stressed, so a blanket response fits. We view our stress as ‘trivial,’ when globally, we’re bleeding.
Though stress is a natural feeling and a normal part of life, in recent times, I feel that normalcy has been replaced by comfort. People have become used to being stressed. It’s expected, we are supposed to feel this way. A growing ‘comfort’ that this is the reality of our world, constantly wired by stress. We are content with the idea that ‘stress is in numbers,’ so much so that in the norm of it, we have lost sight of prioritizing and treating our stress

Even I found comfort in the norm.
I never noticed how much I stressed until I had a phone call with my older brother. His nonchalant way of life is something I should have become more personally invested in before our conversation. But all in good time.
In just four words, “Stress will kill you,” this phone call hit different. I couldn’t shake the echo of his voice after he uttered those words. I realized it moved me because it was true. True to me and my nature at the time. It was at that moment I shifted my thinking. I became accustomed to feeling stressed. Times I used it to fuel me and others- it paralyzed me – all while I was in control. But never again.

You would think something so common and felt by so many would be easy to understand, but instead, it’s a matter of great complexity.
Stress is subjective. Its severity and the way it affects one are only felt by the individual experiencing it. What may stress you may not affect the next person. Take a flight delay situation. One might feel frustrated and consumed with stress, allowing their mood to alter. Whereas the next passenger may view it as a sign, there is a reason for my delay. They proceed to hit the airport bar during the wait. Likewise, individuals may react differently to being late during a traffic jam. One might beat themselves up and become infuriated as their patience wears thin. But the car next door has understood they have no control over the situation. They choose to load their favorite playlist and belt out a much-needed karaoke sesh.
You have options.

Stress can be silent. A quiet take over that cripples within. We are unaware of its build-up and fail to see the signs as we associate the feeling with irritable outward reactions. Oblivious to our numbness of each situation by underreacting. We internalize our stress and suppress the feeling pushing it down so that it never reaches the surface. This type of stress can be dangerous because we allow ‘the silence’ to chip away at our physical and mental health. Much like quiet stress, many suffer from chronic stress, which is ongoing and prolonged. This type of stress is long-term and can lead to serious health issues if it goes unchecked. People suffering from chronic stress often face symptoms that include chest pain, constant nervousness, and irritability. Those affected struggle through the everyday pressures of life, owing the source of their stress to multiple causes.
Acute stress is an immediate and intense reaction that sticks around for a short-term basis. The symptoms are short-lived as a single unexpected event usually triggers this stress. It is momentary, like the stress you feel when you receive criticism from your boss or argue with your spouse.
Not all stress is bad.
Eustress is a positive form of stress. Unlike most stress that causes detriment to your health, eustress benefits your performance and well-being. It challenges and motivates you to do better, like a promotion at work or stepping outside your comfort zone and taking on a new skill.

Degree of stress.

Identifying stress can be difficult as it may not come from an obvious source but rather a combination of small daily stresses.
Stressors can vary from minor to major, both possessing the power to wreak havoc and disturb our peace. Minor stressors are our day-to-day inconveniences like misplacing your keys, random delays, or a misunderstanding with a friend. Major stressors are more significant losses, the death of a loved one, a divorce, chronic illness, or unemployment.
Some stressors are a result of times of uncertainty or the feeling of not being in control. Without control, we feel useless.
In addition, we find ourselves rehashing stressful situations, which causes our body to respond as if we’re reliving the stressful moment. Focusing on past stress hinders our future peace.
Let’s be honest we do give ourselves ‘stress’ at times, making it more internal than external.
We bring about unnecessary stress by fixating on the worst-case scenario. We may be guilty of this, especially of late, focusing on the worst possible outcome and attracting the negative.
In today’s society, the youth are stressed about their body image and self-image as they attempt to meet unrealistic beauty standards. The pressure of wanting to fit into society’s image.
Among that, we have people feeling compelled to succeed and make money, allowing the world to shape their purpose. What even?
Whatever the reason may be, the impacts of stress can be lasting.

Stress takes a toll on our physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.
Physically long-term stress can lead to a stroke or heart attack as well as illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Weight change is a common sign of stress as one’s appetite fluctuates, causing overeating or undereating. Common physical signs of stress include high blood pressure or headaches. Many experience body aches or pains as the tension works its way into our muscles.
Emotionally we become angry, irritated, and moody. Short-fused and snappy.
Psychologically we experience excessive worrying and growing anxiety.
Behaviourally, you can tell by the neglect of self-care and poor hygiene. Key behavior signs to observe may be one’s reliance on drugs and alcohol as a means of coping. Someone fighting an inner battle with stress may be inclined to engage in unnecessary gambling and impulsive buying.
Note the signs.

Make the difference.

In terms of managing your stress, I don’t believe in a cure but rather a set of methods that make it easier to cope. This could be a combination of techniques like exercising regularly, journaling your thoughts, digital detoxing, or practicing meditation. Go back to basics and enjoy your hobbies or try out a new skill. Spend your time doing the things you love and that bring you joy. Be present and speak positive thoughts into existence. Feed your mind right and approach your health with the consistency it deserves. Organize your life so that it brings you stability in a world full of chaos. Be serious in the pursuit of taking ownership of your life and exiting the comfort of living with stress. Don’t waste time and energy how a matter you can’t change, and if you can do so.
The only control we have when it comes to stress is the way we choose to react to it, there is power in deciding what you will allow to move you. Cliche but “choose your battles and your response wisely.”
Anyways I’m stressed about talking about stress and typing the word stress.
So I’m out.

Mind Over Matter.



Like most foundation skills we learn at school, reading and writing stay with us for life. It is at these early stages where most basic learning takes place. Yet, the introduction of mental health topics is something we seem to stumble on as young adults.
Yes, teachers play a crucial role in promoting student mental health. However, it is the school’s responsibility to pave the way and establish values that prioritize the wellbeing of the whole student. The school’s philosophy sets the tone for the environment it creates. Pressure cannot be placed solely on teachers to provide a positive atmosphere when the top (system) fails to lead by example. Schools must readjust their vision, mission, and goal to cater to a safe, mental health-friendly environment. The words must become a reality. Instead of a slogan/motto to slap on the monthly newsletter or a catchphrase to lure prospective students. Schools should lead and guide teachers/staff to form a united front that advocates the importance of mental wellbeing by introducing the right resources for students.

Where did we go wrong?

The majority of schools adopt a militant approach to education. A system that focuses on discipline and producing results. The belief is that achievement and success is the single objective. The cornerstone of our capitalist society. A culture that breeds students with a clouded tunnel-vision perspective on success and what matters in life.
A robotic culture, stuck in mundane outdated curriculums that attempt to produce a standard of unilateral thinking. A fixation on accumulating facts and building a reservoir of knowledge that often serves no use. Remember, knowledge without application has no purpose. The obsession with numbers, quantity over quality, begins here.
It is one of our first experiences of an institution with an unquenchable thirst for results. A measurement of how much we retain rather than how much we will use. A uniformity that is not only introduced by the need to look the same but by the naive expectation that students think the same.
The problem is that schools foster a narrow view of success through academics or sports. Children reared on the idea that happiness can be achieved, through results that bring success. Success in the form of tangible objects and possessions. Consumerism in a capitalist economy at its finest. A step-by-step guide. One is only satisfied once they have secured a house, a car, (inserts any luxury) etc. A game that requires each level to be unlocked, revealing new attainment of success. We are to blame for reducing self-worth down to societal standards. Value, reduced to the number of things you obtain. This moment is where we fail our youth and indoctrinate a falsehood of needing to live a life driven by wealth, power, and fame. We got kids believing that there is one path to take. No pressure. The naivety and ignorance behind telling our youth you are unique and different but, “here’s one door”- our job is to push you through.

Schools often promote academic competence without the
development of emotional/ social skills. Producing kids with an aggressive pursuit of ambition and very little understanding of mental health. So what can we do to shift our notion/ focus to developing healthy minds? Minds that are not dependent on academics or sport to produce a meaningful life. But ultimately an environment where student differences are accepted and celebrated. A new focus on happy, healthy children rather than successful children. Schools carry precious cargo through their halls and corridors each day. The duty to shape young minds. A task that big requires change and an understanding that human beings are multidimensional. All factors must be nurtured and cultivated

So we understand the problem, how do we implement solutions? Like I mentioned earlier, we have to start with adjusting our objectives. Once we make a clear goal to adhere to, then we can meet those words with actions. Schools can start by investing in mental health training for teachers. Educate teachers on general mental health problems and the know-how for early intervention. Support teachers with the knowledge to assist students with mental health challenges by identifying and responding. Train teachers and staff to promote behavioral development. Learn the necessary ways that will limit feelings of hopelessness and sadness that roam through classes.
Implement mental health workshops where students can engage in relevant topics and understand themselves. Build self-awareness and introspection so that students can identify their emotions by linking their ‘known’ feelings to appropriate actions.

Aim higher.

Schools can reach out to the education department and relevant boards to assess curriculum changes. They must be held accountable for pushing material that has no meaning or value. We must move towards content with life lessons and key takeaways. The kind of material that will promote relevant skills for the outside world. These changes can merge into a required subject. A subject dedicated to open discourse among students on the harsh realities and the nature of the world we live in. A step up from L.O. Lessons that equip students with the necessary tools to navigate through the ups and downs of life.
For schools to fully hold a positive space for learners, there must be room for a diversity of talents. Clubs and extracurriculars equally invested in specific niches to cultivate young artists, creatives, or innovators.
Schools should have a qualified school counselor on the premise to assist students in an emergency and general student checkups. Group sessions and individual consultations where students can speak their minds. A health professional that can bridge an understanding between the expectations of parents, school and the needs of the student. Someone who is an ear and voice for each child.
Schools must fully immerse themselves in creating a wellness ambiance by following a mental health calendar. Acknowledge and honor days that are important in educating mental illness.
The school can also make an effort to host mental health organizations or professionals for seminars. Lectures and masterclasses that create awareness while teaching students the key to mental wellbeing.

There are many ways schools can implement changes and teach the importance of intangibles. Moving away from the system we have all been accustomed to, to one we are deserving of. But change requires leaving familiarity behind and welcoming improvement. The education system has to understand its inner purpose and use it to mold a better future. Education with meaning.
Schools should feel fulfilled by their contribution of sending out well-developed students groomed holistically. Thinkers of the future, who don’t only hold certificates with A’s but a mind strong enough to cope through adversity.

What kind of humans do you want to walk out of your institution?



The Teacher’s Role in Student Mental Health.

Hopefully, we’ve all had teachers in our lives that made a mark. A positive mark. The kind of teachers that stepped beyond academics and paid attention to our mental well-being too. The type of teachers who refused to view us as a number of the system and took the time to learn about who we are.
Now I know we live in a numerical world, where our scores and marks determine how we are ‘seen’ and what we will be.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in testing well for one’s personal goals. But more so, I advocate the importance of rearing good, kind, healthy human beings. A success that isn’t measured by your ability to memorize and repeat.

I am lucky to have crossed paths with one of the special-kind and unfortunate to have experienced many who were straight-up textbook teachers. One’s who regurgitated knowledge in pursuit of our retention.

But let’s shine the spotlight our those gems that deserve recognition.
So I’ll take you back to 2006. The year I met a teacher who had a lifelong influence and shaped me into the person I am today. I’ll spare you the details. But for a 9-year-old, I went through two significant changes in under a year. I had recently experienced the loss of my father and shortly after moved from South Africa, my home, to the UK. I know what you’re thinking, how bad could it be? And yes, it ended up being a magical adventure. But as a youngin, I was leaving all I had known behind. Soldiering on~ these changes had directly impacted my well-being but, still, we move. There were more factors at play though the gist was that things were rough.

The English school year begins in September, so I started school in the middle of year 5 (Grade 5). Hands down my worst academic year. I know it’s primary school but as a kid who valued scholarly achievements, it was dismal. I couldn’t keep up with the workload and the pressure I felt of being a new immigrant, fighting off old stereotypes. The school didn’t ease that transition. I felt the weight of having to start all over again, making friends, learning an advanced curriculum, and proving myself. I guess the latter was self-inflicted, I burdened myself with the feeling of needing to prove I deserved to be there. There I was trying to catch up while my teacher failed to recognize anything beyond my substandard marks. She chose to ignore the reflection or deeper meaning behind those numerical values. Zero guidance, zero understanding. She gave me ‘just another dumb foreigner’ vibes. Class dismissed.

For many kids, including me going to school brings comfort, structure, and safety. But this particular year, I dreaded every day. With low self-esteem and no classroom support, I felt useless. Feeling overwhelmed and constantly overlooked, I struggled in silence and counted my days.

Until year six arrived and changed the game. In some way, I had to experience the bad before appreciating the good. This year I was blessed with a teacher who saw something in me. He saw my potential and took the time to cultivate an environment where I could unlock it. Mr. Squillario not only noticed my academic potential but my sporting talents too. It was at a PE class where we played cricket that my boost of confidence grew. Mr. Squillario instantly observed my capabilities, I finally felt accepted among my peers. In South Africa, sport was and is an integral part of the schooling system. My talents arose from countless memories of playing cricket with my older brother and Gran. One PE class had taken me back to a moment of pure bliss. I felt like a kid again. Turn’s out, Mr. Squillario saw something shift in me too. The next day he handed me a letter for country cricket trials. He told me to hand it over to my parents and that he believed I had a good chance.

At the time, I was in my head, thinking this was something way out of my league. I was just a little Durban girl, ‘what business did I have in an English county team.’ I pushed that letter to the bottom of my bag, but he was resilient. Each day he would ask me, “Did your parents sign it yet?” with a nervous mumble, I would reply with an excuse. All while knowing the letter sat pressed between todays’ lunch and tomorrow’s homework. But he pushed. After school, he followed briskly behind and spoke to my mother. Unimpressed and caught off guard, my mother assured him she would take a look at it. I, of course, was reprimanded for withholding information and the embarrassment that ensued. I guess a part of me was struggling with self-doubt and the idea of incurring additional expenses/pressures on the fam. But whatever he said made her sign that form. With a bottle of water and my talent, I showed up at trials. I immediately became intimidated by girls with name-branded gear and already formed cliques. Over the trial period, it stirred a hunger in me. I was losing too much that I needed to win. I wanted this opportunity, knowing I had someone who believed I was worthy of it. I had never felt a sense of belonging like I did when holding a cricket ball. When that letter arrived to congratulate me on making the Middlesex County U11 Cricket team, I owed that success to Mr. Squillario.

Moral of the story Mr. Squillario saw me. He gave me a shot that no one else could or was willing to. He unlocked a beast mode in me that left all inadequate, insecure feelings behind. He opened up a door of possibilities and believed that I could achieve anything. I excelled in my schoolwork again and made the squad each year after that. I played club, academy, and county-level cricket for eight years, winning Jack Petchey awards and competing in the London Youth Games. I had arrived. I went from playing with my family in the flats to training at Lords Cricket Ground, because of the impact a teacher had made. The achievements, though rewarding, didn’t match what he shifted internally in me. My mindset, my emotional and social well-being had changed for the better.

He gave me a start in life, a chance at my new life in the UK. He believed in fostering a supportive atmosphere, a classroom that developed our emotional, social and academic competence. He focused on the whole student and appreciated each individual. It is that type of teacher who acknowledges their role is more than the formal description. He took the initiative to facilitate a mental health, friendly environment. He made us feel like we could talk about our emotions and helped us regulate them. Despite the school’s lack of support, he went against the norm and became a mentor, counselor, and educator all in one.

Teachers play a crucial role in their student’s mental health often becoming the only role models outside of a child’s home. They spend countless hours with children and watch them develop, putting them in a prime position of often detecting mental health problems that interfere with day-to-day functioning. Though diagnosis cannot be made on their part, observations can assist with early intervention.
The classroom can be a space for emotional expression, in some cases something that isn’t an option at home. Teachers form an example of healthy, appropriate adult behavior which children will internalize and model. They shape our mindsets. In essence, a classroom is a powerful place and with the right teacher, it can change you for life



When we speak of causes of mental illnesses, we often find there is no single cause but rather a combination. We tend to categorize these causes into three main groups biological, psychological, and environmental. Under each group lies possible risk factors that can contribute to the onset of mental illness. The more risk factors you encounter, the more likely your chances of enduring a mental illness may be. Matters of the brain are complicated, as causes depend on the individual and the type of disorder. Mental illness could remain dormant or ‘activate’ depending on one’s unique experience with exposed risk factors. The move from ‘dormant’ to ‘active’ is the direct consequence of what we call triggers. Triggers are different for each person. What may set off one might not spark the other.

Biological causes:
So we often hear people debate whether “it’s a chemical imbalance.” To give this phrase meaning, we refer to the increase or reduced number of neurotransmitters that affect the overall functioning of the neural network.
Neurotransmitters are responsible for communicating signals between nerve cells. The abnormal functioning of these nerve pathways, which connect to distinct parts of the brain, may result in mental disorders.

Speaking of functionality and brain regions, the occurrence of a brain injury may bring about mental disorders. As we know, our brains are central to the functioning of our bodies. When a part of it takes a hit, it could alter our moods, the way we think and act.
The type of disorder is dependent on the impact, the region affected, and the severity of the injury.

Then comes genetics. Similarly, you may get your green eyes from Mom and your freckles from Dad in the form of genes. There is reason to believe that susceptibility to mental illness is no different. The gist of genetics and mental illness is that some disorders may run in families. A hypothesis that suggests if a direct family member has a mental illness, one may be more likely to develop it themselves. It is the susceptibility that passes down in families. The abnormalities in a family member’s gene pool do not warrant an onset of a mental illness but present a risk factor. There are variables to consider, like your environment and how you choose to respond to it. Exposure to abuse/ traumatic events could activate a mental illness that is underlying due to genes.
The phenomenon of triggers.

Infections and diseases play a role in contributing to the evolution of a mental illness. In a comparable way that disease/ infection causes your physical health to decline, your mental health suffers too. Generally, the assumption is that one who is experiencing a disease/ infection has poor health overall. Following, the belief that their habits are unhealthy; poor diet, substance use, and exercise levels. The added impact of medications and poor lifestyle choices due to disease/infection can contribute to the progression of a mental illness.

While focusing on the biological causes in one’s postnatal lifespan, we must consider the conditions of an individual’s prenatal experience. The fetus’s exposure and the environment before birth coincide with its growth. Any disruption or impairment that affects the unborn child’s brain development is known as prenatal damage. Sadly, this damage can cause adverse effects on one’s mental health before their life outside of the womb begins.
Determinants of a mental illness include a mother using drugs or alcohol during her pregnancy and her exposure to infections/illness. Mother’s in traumatic environments; exposed to violence, abuse, and high levels of stress increase the likelihood of negatively affecting the neurodevelopment of their fetus. In addition, the probability of their child acquiring a mental illness

Our environments indeed shape us.
Psychological and environmental factors intertwine, both supporting the premise that the trigger of emotional stress may stimulate a mental illness. It is no secret that severe psychological trauma may lead to mental illness. One’s suffering in the form of emotional, sexual, or physical abuse increases the risk, though it is also dependent on the individual’s reaction to those stressors. Childhood neglect or an early loss of a parent all provide psychological risk factors for mental illness.

Environmental factors include the challenges we face in our lifespan. Deeply rooted in the psychological effect these changes have, each stressor can be a potential risk factor. Triggers such as the illness of a relative, divorce, change in jobs, or schools all present the possibility of mental disorders.
Living in poverty or dysfunctional family life can cause one to experience an episode of mental illness. Political unrest, socio-cultural expectations, discrimination, and social disadvantage are catalysts that can cause long-lasting consequences to one’s mental well-being. Each stressor has the power to drive one into a mood or anxiety-related disorder. A common mental health condition is post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by distressing events that one witnesses or experiences.

The length of the exposure, the severity, one’s age, and prior stresses are all conditions that determine the way one is affected. With the notion that we are all unique individuals, we must acknowledge that one may be more resilient to certain traumatic stressors than others. Our resilience varies due to our characteristics, personality types, coping mechanisms, and previous trauma.

There is beauty in the idea that none of us walk the same paths. Our journey and response to our environment uniquely define each of us. While providing us with an empathetic lens to which we should view others and mental health.
The only path you know is yours, so before making a quick judgment on one’s mental illness, understand the variation and cumulative causes that may have got them there.



“How did I miss it?” We often blame ourselves for failing to observe mental illness in those around us. Our minds run in circles wondering, how was I blind to it all. ” I didn’t see it coming.” We harbor feelings of guilt, contemplating whether we were too consumed in our own worlds to notice the changes in others. We begin to feel ashamed as we realize our neglect for those living under the same roof. Or maybe it was the colleague we spoke to every day or the close friend we didn’t think to check on.

Whoever it may be, this usually occurs for one of three reasons.

1- Denial.
2- Lack of knowledge regarding mental illness and the ability to notice early warning signs.
3- Unable to devote time to others as you navigate your mental health struggles.

Regardless of the reason, it’s not your fault. Wait. Unless you knew and refused to help, then damn that’s on you. No need to feel attacked, I’ma explain. If you’re aware that a family member or friend may struggle with a mental illness and do nothing, this may worsen their disorder. As the illness persist’s it may become more challenging to treat and overcome. Hence the importance of early intervention that proves to reduce the severity of a mental illness. Not only are you failing to help, but you’re prolonging a disorder and hindering treatment. Would your approach be the same with a physically visible wound? I wonder.

Now back to those initial reasons. Denial is a common feeling amongst family and friends who experience a loved one with a mental illness. Most refuse to accept ‘mental illness’ due to the stigma attached. It is more comforting to believe it is a phase, a temporary setback. The idea of not confronting it provides a safety net of it not being a reality. Denial is a defense mechanism to protect the unknown. Then comes comparisons.
“Mona from down the street is much worse, she hasn’t gone for treatment, so you don’t need to, you’re fine.”
Clinging on to dismissal. Family and friends compare mental health with one another to satisfy their belief that their beloved isn’t as bad. A big no-no. Everybody’s mental health journey is unique and cannot be reduced to what Mona down the street is going through. No two paths will be the same. You are rejecting their mental illness in the hope of preserving your peace of mind.

I am a firm believer in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Knowledge is Power.” So when it comes to lacking knowledge on mental illness, I believe there is an easy fix. Too many have succumbed to the notion, “Ignorance is bliss” denying themselves the best tool of understanding. Many miss early signs of mental illness ~ quite simply because they don’t know them. Equipping yourself with information puts you in a position of power where you chip away at the ‘control.’ The control of the mental illness on your loved one and your family/friend dynamics. Once you break the barrier of stigma, knowledge will welcome you with open hands. The choice is yours.

Finally, in some cases, family and friends could be experiencing mental health difficulties that prevent them from devoting their attention to others. They may be going through a period of poor mental health due to living with a mentally ill individual. Before diagnosis, there is a ripple effect within households. Tensions arise as family and friends become depressed and deeply anxious about their loved ones. Consumed with stress, many feel helpless. However, hope is not lost.

Lighten the load, take the time to get advice, and reach out. Begin with educating yourself on ways to show support while figuring out your boundaries. We all have limits on what we can give. There are many ways to take care of yourself and support your loved one. You can start by researching education centers/courses that cater to your needs and theirs. You can learn about different mental illnesses and symptoms. You can find support groups for them and yourself.

Early warning signs are vital before you approach the initial conversation with your loved one. Make sure you’re well-versed on potential signs of them having a mental illness. Note you are exercising a role of support; by no means are you fixing. Have an open, honest conversation based on research and what you have observed paired with how they feel.

Just like road signs that provide direction, this will too.
Early warning signs of mental illness:

~ Appetite: Dramatic changes in eating habits, loss of appetite, or increased hunger

~ Sleep: Changes in sleeping patterns, excessive sleeping, constant fatigue, or inability to sleep (insomnia)

~ Mood: Dramatic shifts/ extreme moods, the constant fluctuation of highs and lows, rapid changes in emotions

~ Isolation/ Withdrawal: Social withdrawal, avoiding family and friends, withdrawal from hobbies and interests

~ Daily functioning: Inability to carry out prior routine, daily activities like work/study or everyday problems

~ Substance Abuse: Excessive use of alcohol and drugs

~ Anxiety: Increased fear and excessive nervousness, worrying and paranoia

~ Detachment from reality: Hallucinations, delusions of things that do not exist outside their mind

~ Relating: Unable to relate to people and situations, inability to maintain relationships

~ Sex drive: Extreme changes in sexual activity

~ Illogical speech/ thinking: Disorganized speech with no meaning, thinking becomes irrational an influx of magical/fantasy thought patterns, belief in powers

~Disorganized behaviour: Behaving in an odd, unusual way, acts in an uncharacteristic manner

~ Suicidal thinking: Wanting to hurt themselves, inflict pain and thoughts of taking their own life. (Urgent Help is needed)

If a combination of signs occurs without a recent linked event or trauma, it may be time to have that conversation. Support your loved ones by offering them the necessary information and steps. It takes a community. Allow yourself to experience the chain of emotions while being proactive in your ability to help.

Mind Over Matter.