Depression, hypertension and suicide among young people are rising way faster today than they ever have- not just in Africa, but the world all over. Circumstances have presented taking one’s own life as an alternative; populations are tripling, technology and “skillsets” are halving down jobs, parents are depriving their children of time and love to afford beach holidays for the same children, and we’ve not learnt the patience of routine work nor how to build meaningful relationships.
So, what do we do to feel like people that still matter amidst the population burst, the absence of parenthood, the scarcity of decent work and deficiency of patience to build proper careers and relationships? I believe that it all starts with CHOOSING YOURSELF. I asked six friends what choosing themselves meant to them. Their responses inspired this article.
To Angellah, it meant knowing what brought positivity into her life, and setting boundaries around it to keep herself sane and happy. I love to dance- it’s my therapy whenever I have stuff weighing me down. I happened to go to Catholic school, and among the students, yes; I was popular. With the administration? Not so much. Their opinion was that I’d perform a lot better if I wasn’t so taken up by music. Today, I may not have a professional career in music, but had I caved in to their opinions about what kept me happy, I’d definitely not still be here to have any career at all!
John reminds himself every morning that he is unique, and that his journey is very different from anybody else’s. I sing this all the time. Your friend’s success does not translate into your lack of, and the reverse is true. Each of our stories is unique, and what’s important is our role in helping each other’s stories reach their happy ending. If your specialties and dreams differ, why are you measuring your progresses by the same yardstick, abi? Are you mad? You dey craze?
Lenah felt that choosing yourself meant realizing that you are enough, regardless of the opinions or circumstances surrounding you. People label it pride, self-actualization, and a lot of other big words. I call it recognizing your worth. And in doing this, don’t gauge it by society’s standards, no. Measure it by your own progress; how far you’ve come, where you are now, how the future is looking. It will hit you that you’re actually kind of a big deal, and nothing anybody else thinks matters. Like, at all.
Aloysius puts himself first before work, family or anything else. This one is hard. Work is your obligation, and family is your responsibility, I get it. It’s hard to tap out when workload overwhelms you in a workplace running on a startup model with irregular work hours to hit targets and maximize profit. It’s hard to turn down the needs of your family. But if you push yourself over the edge to please your boss, when you die, he won’t wait more than three days to advertise your role as vacant. Family won’t survive with you gone. Set those boundaries- they need them as much as you do.
Anne shuts out all negative energy. I see motivational videos telling people to channel all the negativity from their naysayers into motivation to prove them wrong. First of all, the fact that you’re doing what you do to shame your haters rather than get your own fulfilment is so disturbing. Second, revenge is a cancer- everybody knows this. Success motivated by revenge will never ever feel enough, and thus, you will never be happy. So do yourself a favor, and cut off all the toxic links to your life before you start to rot.
Trizah knows her priorities over the priorities of other people for her life. As an African child, you get help from every uncle, aunt, and friend of family. At that point, it feels like family just being supportive. It isn’t. They’re buying their future rights to an opinion on your career choices, your choice of wife/husband, how much to donate to them (told you it wasn’t support) etc. Again, they’re family, so it’s complicated. But do not lose your mind over making them happy- they’re not worth your mental well-being.
The fight against depression is not a smooth ride; it’s a long bumpy one. But if we take baby steps, starting with choosing ourselves, we can improve the state of mental health for the young people in Africa.