Time to speak out

During this pandemic, most of us have seen our mental health slowly decline. Being locked in our homes like prisoners has been a traumatic experience. 

According to the Mental Health Foundation, at the beginning of lockdown, 62% of adults in the UK have felt anxious or worried. Specifically, this statistic was highest for students (74%) and women (71%).

Lievine Kutukana is a 19-year-old student studying languages and culture at The School of Oriental & African Studies. Kutukana is a mental health advocate who likes empowering women, especially black women. She started a mental health service called ‘Lets Talk Health’ to help people talk about their mental health overall as well as share their stories with other people. Specifically, she founded the service in order to try and help the younger generation along with males. 

The Mental Health Foundation reported that as a result of the pandemic, more than half (54%) of the adult UK population had felt nervous or worried in the previous two weeks.  In addition, women (63%), full-time students (66%), unemployed people (60%), and those with a pre-existing mental health disorder (69%) were among the demographic groups who seemed to be feeling more anxious or worried. 

Kutukana explained “I feel like this lockdown has been challenging for everyone. Especially the first initial lockdown. The first one was vibes as everyone was out of school and at home. The second lockdown was a bit up and down.  I feel like the second lockdown has really triggered everyone’s mental health. Everyone just wants to get out.’’

“Last year, I started up my mental health page to just empower women. My friends were telling me that I really give out good advice. They insisted that I take this to my advantage and try help others.’’

Although the page was initially to empower women, Kutulana realised the ‘‘platform wasn’t there for males to also speak up about their mental health.

“I had a conversation with a male friend, and he asked me how do I openly tell my friends about how I feel? He explained how easy it is for females to express yourselves,’’ she added.

‘‘He asked that as males how do you tell your other male friends that you’re upset without looking like the soft one. He knows how his friends are and they will just judge him, or he would have to keep a brave face even though he is going through stuff.’’

The Mental Health Foundation explained that traditional gender roles are a primary reason as to why many men are less likely to seek help for mental health issues.

Kutukana emphasised how she feels distraught as some men feel as though they are unable to speak about their mental health. 

“Right now, I am selling my own journal. The journals will be released in the summer. I want to be as creative as I can be with Lets Talk Health. I want to make a difference with what I am doing with my journals,’’ she said.

‘‘With my journals, it is very open with quotes to keep the individual motivated and provide them space to write whatever is on their mind.’’

Kutukana explained that the journals are a way for people to practice escapism and free writing. She clarified, “I feel like writing is voluntary, but I also feel like writing is a great skill to practise. I want people to  write about their problems, what they go through throughout the day, and how it affects them.’’

‘‘For example, how something can make you feel happy, or something can make you feel anxious, or something can make you feel angry.  It is so great to write about what you go through, day to day as it gives you a peace of mind.  It is your personal diary, and you can express yourself in anyway you want to.’’

Kutukana said by simply asking someone, ‘‘are you okay, mentally? How are you? Is everything going Okay? How Is everything going?’’ can make someone’s day from her experience.

‘‘I feel like so many people need to have this sense of togetherness. We need to all have this sense of togetherness in a way where we take care of each other.’’

Mary De-Wind

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