They say every cloud has a silver lining; I like to think that the upside to the pandemic is that it has finally brought the conversation around mental health to the forefront.
Worldwide NPOs and social media accounts have sprung up wanting to create awareness and share tools to navigate hard times. Champions like Henry Cock from Mentally Aweh pushed their body to the limit to raise funds for mental health. Celebrities and influencers took to social media to share messages to destigmatise mental illness.
As a mother of 2, I saw first-hand the effect the pandemic had on our kids, children who were once outgoing became withdrawn and shy, children who once spoke beautifully developed stutters and parenting had to change in ways for which no guidebook even existed. Using my child psychology degree, my kid’s yoga teachings and my parenting experience I decided to look at ways I could help.
The saddest part about covid is that the kids weren’t the ones in danger of dying from the virus, they were lost in the background of the panic and they became the collateral damage of the pandemic. Their development was disrupted, their secure environments were shattered, and their routine which plays such a vital role in their mental health was destroyed. In any normal time of distress the parents, their safe space, would be there to help but in this case, the village was battling their own economical and mental and physical health battles.
Two years into the pandemic and I am driving home and I see the headline ‘Mental health in SA ranked among the worst in the world’ posted in bold on a lamppost. Although wildly infuriated by this I sadly wasn’t one bit surprised. Through my research, I found that even though we have a mental health policy framework and strategic plan in place, not much of it has been executed. The policy ran from 2013-2020 and has now lapsed. In a time when we are at a crisis point in terms of mental health in the world, we in SA aren't even rushed to review and update the policy framework and focus on the mental health of our people.
So here we sit with youth who are struggling, screaming out for help while parents scramble for ways to help or walk away feeling that there is no hope.
Desmond Tutu once said ‘“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
This is what inspires me to want to work with kids and their mental health, I want to stop them from falling in. I want to start from the bottom, at the developmental stages, and teach parents the skills they need to raise a child with resilience, and self-confidence. We must stop meeting people at breakpoint, we have to take a preventative approach.
We need to gather our village and together put up a fence along that river, a fence of love, support and mental health education. My hope is that I can arm as many parents as possible with the skills they need to do this.