In this podcast (episode #295) and blog, I speak with an amazing young woman, my longtime family friend Vimbai Masiyiwa, about managing mental health as a young adult and millennial, surviving cancer, the importance of destigmatizing mental health, how culture and religion can impact how we view mental health struggles, the power of education, and more!
As Vimbai notes, if you have been diagnosed with a serious illness or disease like cancer, it can be incredibly hard to separate your identity from your diagnoses. You may feel like you don’t really know who you are anymore, which can further impact your wellbeing.
The same can be said for the world around us. Unfortunately, certain cultural and religious traditions can contribute to the stigmatization of mental health challenges, making an individual feel guilty or ashamed for struggling.
But the reality is that it is okay to not be okay. It is okay to be sad—it is okay to struggle. We need to let the people in our life know it is okay to talk about how they feel. No one should feel ashamed for struggling; no one should have to suffer in silence. Indeed, when and if you are ready to share your mental health story with other people, you have an opportunity to expand the mental health conversation. You can use your voice to show people in your community that struggling is part of being human and no one should be afraid to ask for help.
We desperately need these kind of conversations. As Vimbai points out, social media often creates the expectation that to be normal means that things are always going well all the time. But the reality is that reality is messy; to be normal means to wake up some days and not feel okay. Our struggles actually humanize us; they do not make us “abnormal”.
We need to learn to listen to and respect our minds like we listen to our bodies. If we are not feeling okay mentally, then we should give ourselves a break and seek help if we feel we need it, much in the same way that, when we get a cold, we rest and give our bodies time to heal.
Unfortunately, we live in a world that often associates success with wealth, which creates the expectation that we need to constantly work to be financially secure, which puts a lot of pressure on our minds. Many of us feel we need to constantly keep going to reach some goalpost someone else placed before us. But, as Vimbai points out, rest is a powerful way to redefine success… to quit the spiral of toxic expectations. It is a way to honor our needs, mentally and physically, and define our own success, which will change during different seasons in our life.
At the end of the day, if we want to start changing the narrative on mental health, we need to educate ourselves and our communities. What do we know, and what do we not know? How does the mind and brain work? What are the right questions to ask? How do we listen to and validate what people are going through? How can we better teach our children and ourselves about our minds and emotions? And opening up the conversation, not suppressing how we feel or judging others for struggling, is the only way we will start doing this.
For more on better ways to talk about mental health, listen to my podcast with Vimbai (episode #295). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
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2:30, 7:10 Vimbai’s story & why she became a mental health advocate
3:00 Vimbai’s battle with cancer & how it impacted her mental health
4:30, 13:25, 23:40 How religion & culture can contribute to the stigmatization of mental ill-health
6:15 Why it is okay to not be okay
6:32, 38:50 The importance of support & community
7:30 The power of sharing your story with others
8:48 Depression & anxiety are part of being human
10:25 Social media & mental health expectations
12:05 Why we need to give our minds & brains a break
12:40 The need to redefine success
17:50 Why we need to change the way we see mental health
22:50 The power of self-regulation
24:00 How to start shifting the mental health narrative
25:50 How younger generations can help teach older generations
32:00 Why we need to check in with our kids mentally & model authenticity with our children
42:15 Why feeling like you are heard is more important than giving advice
43:30 Millennial mental health
50:40 Why we need to process, not suppress, difficult emotions
53:30 Why Vimbai is passionate about advocating for mental health in Africa
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