Understanding Mental Health

Understanding Mental Health

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.
It is just another medical problem like Malaria or Hepatitis-B

What is Mental Health?


Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.


Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It is just another medical problem like Malaria or Hepatitis B.

Who is the patient?

Sometimes writing about something so broad is really daunting. You do not know where to start because you do not want to come out as shallow. So, you have to research about the topic in order to be knowledgeable about it, then write and post it. 

The enemy called Google

Thing is, I have been a victim of using google to self diagnose and it makes you feel as though you are dying. Why did I make that statement? Well, I happened to write a whole blog about mental health and after reading it, I deleted the whole thing. I had put so much work into that blog but reading it made it feel as though I am an employee or a researcher at WebMd.

The whole blog was about the signs, symptoms and treatment of Mental Illness, but guess what? I am not a doctor and I promised myself that my blogs would be factual stories. So let me not bore you to death with these paragraphs that are totally unrelated and go into the topic( laughs nervously).

My  Story

I have my own story regarding mental illness. Growing up, I had issues with my weight especially after adolescence because to me, weight did not matter till I started becoming a woman. I was always a tough (I still am) little girl and was most of the time in my own cocoon. I was such an introvert that other students were scared of me because I had few friends and was always burying myself in books. 

Therefore, I can not lie and say that my childhood was bad because I had the best childhood and I had the best friends in the world growing up ~ Hi sis~. I performed well in my exams, I participated in games…(long sigh)


Before I even continue, (extra long pause) let me talk about my participation in games growing up. Apart from dodge ball ( Mpanya in Kimeru), I used to participate in Football, Handball and track games. This, to me, was scary on another level. Not because they were games but because of the position I played. 

So, in class three, during P.E, our then class teacher decided that we should play fooball. She put us in a single file and used the  juu-chini method to determine the team players. It happened that there were two girls who were ‘fatter’ than the rest and I was one of the two. And that, my dear readers, is how I ended up being a goalkeeper for 6 years in primary school and my self esteem was completely ruined. I could fill up the goal post more.

Must read

Thing is, I was made a goal keeper not because I was good at it at first, but because I filled the goal post more. But somehow I ended up good at it anyway. My self esteem as a teenager was not that good because I felt fat and though my parents made it seem okay, the rest of the world did not. In Africa, being fat means being healthy in many communities, until you can not comfortably do physical activities without sounding like the engine of an old car.

This in turn made me a hostile kid whose temper was always on the verge of blowing up. I ate to reduce stress related to food and this was never the solution. So I ended up with hyper-acidity and a body I could not use to save my life. 

After high school, I joined campus and fitting in especially when I was so used to being so withdrawn and only allowing certain friends into my life was torturous. To make it worse, campus was five hours from home and staying alone was not an option. 

Campus life

My first roommates in campus were my first friends. Hi Marion, hi Viola, hi Sharon… I ate healthily more, I stressed less and socialized more and it did not hurt. I was just afraid of trying which was even harder than talking to actual people. In campus I lost 15 kgs and gained some height and my self esteem boosted itself somehow. I even did participate in evening runs just to stay healthy and have friends who had goals similar to mine. 

Apart from that, I had a best friend who was always there for me… Hi Winnie… and a super supportive exercise partner who also became a friend.. Hi Polycarp… 

Point is, I choose to let myself be happy by getting rid of all the things that made me sad and unhappy. Some things never go away, like losing a loved one, being heart broken and failing exams but I learnt that these things can happen to anyone. I am not alone and whenever I feel stressed, I pray and look at what I am grateful for. 

I am not a therapist but I assure you that when you learn to get rid of the things that make you stressed, unhappy or worried, you live more happily. And that is really important for your mental health.

I am sure by now you understand what mental illness and mental health is all about and who can be a possible patient. Meaning that mental illness can be caused by just about anything including joblessness frustration, failed exams, weight issues and other body insecurities, broken relationships and many more.

Parting shot

The government allocates millions of shillings annually to healthcare. Priority has always been given to physical health than mental health forgetting that mental health is just as important. Mathari Mental National and Referral Hospital is the only national hospital in Kenya that solely focuses on mental health. 

I have worked at Mathari Hospital and the resources are not enough to cater for the growing mental health issues in the country.

Each county ought to have a mental health facility to begin with.  And those facilities should have enough resources.

Apart from that, we all should be mindful of our own mental health. Once in a while, take time off to take care of yourself. Your mental health is vital if at all you want to reach your maximum potential. Watch out for the next article that will dive deeper into mental health.


I am not a psychiatrist but I know that even human beings need help sometimes. It is okay to not be okay because that is what makes us normal. Imagine being a person who does not have emotions. Just do not bottle up those emotions.

Speak out, you are not alone

Tori Karambu

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