According to https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health :
What Is Mental Health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-beings. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:
- Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
- Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
- Family history of mental health problems
Mental Health is a very serious issue that unfortunately many sweep under the table due to lack of knowledge, shame, or denial.With the two recent suicide deaths of Fashion Designer Kate Spade, and Chef/Author Anthony Bourdain being ruled as Mental Illness playing a part of it, it shows that not everything that glitters is gold. If you are battling Mental Health or depression, do not be ashamed to reach out for help. In order to raise more awareness on this issue, I am really glad to be doing this next Interview with one of the Founders of Talk Naija: Talk More, Mental Health Matters. Their mission which is also stated below says, “We aim to do this by sharing people’s stories of their own journeys with mental health issues and awareness, dispelling myths through guest experts, providing resources for those struggling as well as their families/support systems, providing a space for people to have seemingly tough conversations and ask questions in an area with no judgment, and ultimately encouraging those affected, in any way, to seek treatment.” Hopefully this can be an outlet for someone who is in dire need of help. Please check out the interview below.
Chinomso D. Nwachuku is the proud son of Dr. Levi and Mrs. Ugochi Nwachuku. He is the proud brother to two brothers and two sisters. And, he is an uncle to a two and half year old bundle of joy. Chinomso was born in Nigeria and migrated to the United States with his family in 1997. Chinomso is a product of Eziama Village in Ngor Okpala Local Government, Imo State. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated by way of the Nu Chapter.
I am one of the founders of TalkNaija.org along with these beautiful souls: Joy Ukaigwe, Dr. Uche Ukuku and Tutu Shotonwa.
2. What vision sparked the idea to create Talk Naija?
I don’t recall how old I was nor do I recall how old the lady I will refer to as Ms. A was. I knew at one point in her life, she was a beautiful young lady. Now, her outward beauty has faded but I suspect deep down inside she was still a beautiful lady. Ms. A was the neighbor a few houses down from us. At some point in her life, she became afflicted with a mental illness that went undiagnosed and untreated. I recall how she was treated: brought out during the day and confined to a tree. I watched as her vociferous cries for help were perceived as simply incoherent noises or like they said in Igbo okwu ndi ara (crazy people talk). At that tender age, it broke me emotionally to witness the sub-human treatment that Ms. A received. We were instructed not to speak to her or even be close proximity to her. Some would often taunt and tease her. I am ashamed to say now that I participated in a few of those let’s provoke Ms. A sessions. Yet, even then, my heart and soul was not at peace watching Ms. A’s skin fade to match the now pale color of her face and feces. I wanted to cry at times but my culture did not provide me with the psychological safety or space to publically share my emotions. However, in private, I wanted to help and knew I would help at one point in my life. I knew I would help someone but with her condition waning back and forth like the tree she was chained to, I was not sure if I would be able to help her directly. But, I made a promise to her that I will help someone to not experience what she went through.
Additionally, I also watched my sister’s struggle with the diagnosis of Bipolar, PTSD and anorexia. I witnessed how challenging it was for my family to comprehend what she was battling with. At this point, I was moved to want to do something. However, I needed a final push. One of my favorite sayings is “combine pain with your potential and you are bound to run into your purpose.” I have found that pain, for me, has been a signal of something greater happening. While I had the idea for TalkNaija for years, fear kept me from pushing it through. However, I experienced something that became the final catalyst to launch TalkNaija. Someone who was really close to me at one point accused me of “enjoying being depressed and that I also wasn’t doing enough to not feel depressed.” (Please note that initially the person was supportive in terms of encouraging me to seek additional professional help, I thank them for that.) This person was Nigerian and also in the medical field. I thought if someone in the medical field (who has been exposed to mental health conditions) can think like this, I wonder what the average Nigeria will think. It dawned on me that we needed to humanize the experience of those Nigerians with mental health conditions.
3. What is the mission statement for Talk Naija?
TalkNaija.org was founded, by Nigerians for Nigerians, to help reduce the stigma faced by those with mental health conditions in the Nigerian community home and abroad. TalkNaija strives to equip those with mental health conditions with the resources to amplify their voices and to be able to share their stories to help empower and encourage others to seek treatment. We aim to do this by sharing people’s stories of their own journeys with mental health issues and awareness, dispelling myths through guest experts, providing resources for those struggling as well as their families/support systems, providing a space for people to have seemingly tough conversations and ask questions in an area with no judgment, and ultimately encouraging those affected, in any way, to seek treatment.
4. In your opinion, what factors influence mental health the most?
a. There are several factors that could impact one’s mental health. Unfortunately, it is not a one size fits all with the struggles of the mind. Speaking for myself what impact my mental state was the sudden move from Nigeria to the USA, the bullying that followed and perhaps some genetic disposition to depression for example. In general, every day stressor such as work stress, relationship issues, trauma events can impact one’s mental health. It is always important to seek professional help when you experience stressors from the aforementioned things and others.
How can it be prevented, if possible?
b. I am not a medical professional and I don’t pretend to play one on the internet so I want to be extremely careful with how I answer this. From my personal experience, I cannot say for certain that I could have prevented what I experienced because those were all external forces that contributed to them. However, the symptoms that I do experience can be mitigated, which is why it is always important to seek professional help as soon as possible.
5. What is the biggest misconception that people have in regards to Mental Health Issues?
I would suggest that you take a look at the link below. For me, I find that people may believe that all those who struggle with a mental health condition are violent and unpredictable.
6. With the two recent suicide deaths of Fashion Designer Kate Spade, and Chef/Author Anthony Bourdain being ruled as Mental Illness playing a part of it, how important is it to show people that it is real, and not only limited to a certain kind of people?
Mental health conditions certainly do not discriminate. It affects all walks of life, from the rich to the poor, black and white etc. To show that mental health conditions are real, we need to treat them with the same level of attention that we treat our physical health. It starts with having genuine and open dialogue about mental health. We need to create the safe psychological space where people feel that their thoughts can “breathe”, be nurtured and not be shamed or stigmatized. We strive to create this space at Talknaija.org and also to provide resources for all.
7. Why do you think in the African and African American community, Mental illness is overlooked? How can we work to promote optimal mental health and reduce stigma associated with mental illness in different ethnic communities?
We need to humanize the experience of those struggling with mental health conditions. We need to have discussion in a way that resonates with those we are speaking with. I think with the right vocabulary and creating the space and opportunity to have this discussion is key.
8. Are there any upcoming speaking opportunities or workshops that people can see you at?
9. At the end of the day, what kind of legacy do you want Talk Naija to have in years to come?
I want TalkNaija to remain the space that encourages people to continue to have dialogue about mental health and continue humanizing the experience of those struggling with a mental health condition. I also want TalkNaija to encourage others to create this space for their communities
10 . How can people get in contact with the Talk Naija organization via email or social media outlets. And if someone wanted to get help anonymously is it possible?
The option to get help anonymously is always available. Mental health professionals are bound by strict confidentiality laws so a person’s identity is always protected.