INTERVIEW: “I am fine” may be a sign of mental illness”- mental health advocate

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As humans, mental health problems are prone to arise many times in our lives. The risk is however higher now with the coronavirus pandemic. The fear of being misunderstood and shame of sharing problems make people disguise with the ‘I am fine’ response. This response however, may be a sign of mental stress. Mental health advocate, Chinenye Nzom urges, “we need to be on the look out”.

The mental health advocate is founder of Rejuvenation Africa and Executive Director at Volunteers Hub Africa. She is keenly interested in youth leadership and development.


Chinenye Nzom

In this interview, Chinenye Nzom (CN) shares with Women Life Magazine (WLM) her work life experience and advice about mental health.

WLM- On a light mode… You have spoken at many events and received many awards. What is the inspiration behind the growth in your work-life?

CN- I would say the inspiration behind the growth in my life is the desire and hunger to be successful and also inspire others around me to greatness. I am one who believes so much in purpose and if one is not living a purposeful life, such a person is wasting away. That’s my thought and the way I see life.

So everyday, I look forward to getting better in my work life, my relationship with people and with God. And somehow, God has helped me to get recognized in the little things I do to make my community better.

WLM- According to WHO, the global aid for mental health is not up to 1%. As a mental health advocate, why do you think mental health receives the least attention despite its severity?

CN- Well, I would say people are paying more attention to it now, due to the rise in suicide attempts, mental health illnesses and suicide itself.

Mental health compared to physical health cannot be seen. If someone is physically ill, it is obvious, like stomach ache, headache, malaria or typhoid. You can tell by looking at the person. But when someone is down with a mental health illness, it takes a longer time to detect. It is very easy to hide and say “I am fine, I just need to rest a little”.

'I am fine' may be a sign of mental stress. Beware. Click To Tweet

So many people hide under the guise of “I am fine” when they have so many thoughts and issues running through their minds. Not sure of who to share it with, they go into depression. With so much stigma attached to it, they keep managing till they can’t hold it in any longer.

So I will say, we all should be on the look out for one another, even at the a time like this, when the world seems like its in a confused state.

WLM- What basic thing can people do on a daily basis to improve their mental health?

CN- People should stay around those that make them happy, and also do things that make them happy. They should also have one or more people that they can share their worries with, someone who they can trust and is not bias, and if they can afford a personal therapist, they should go ahead and get one.

At this time, it is very important to get involved in things that can make one feel relaxed, like movies, games, books and so on. At every point in time be conscious of being joyful and staying happy, it is very important.

Be conscious of staying happy to protect your mental health- Chinenye Nzom Click To Tweet

WLM- You started your organization quite early. How has that decision to start early helped your present work-life?

CN- It has really helped me to understand people, manage people and become better myself. I already had an idea of what working in an organization was like before officially starting after school. It was an good transition for me. Alhough it was not so smooth, but I have learnt to be open-minded while working which has helped me a great deal.

WLM- Is it feasible to create a startup in this pandemic? What advice can you give on this?

CN- Yes it is, I know so many organizations and start-ups who are doing well in this pandemic. One thing I see common in them is that they are leveraging on technology, the internet and social media. So whatever start up it might be, you cannot rule out technology, at least not now. Look out for people doing great in the industry and watch their pattern. It is easier to learn that way.

Chinenye can be reached on Twitter and Instagram

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