Know your Mental Health

  • Lighthouse NGO
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WHO (World Health Organization) defines mental health as a state of physical and psychological well-being of an individual. The positive dimension of mental health is also stressed in her definition of health as also contained in its constitution: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”


WHO reported that People with mental disorders experience disproportionately higher rates of disability and mortality. For example, persons with major depression and schizophrenia have a 40% to 60% greater chance of dying prematurely than the general population, owing to physical health problems that are often left unattended [such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and HIV infection) and suicide.


For long in Africa, people have not got enough knowledge about mental illness therefor the community members associate it to witchcraft because people have not clearly distinguished the difference between the two societal challenges that are so problematic in the society, therefore, most people who are victim of mental illness ended up under the care of traditional healers and of which in my own opinion, may have received wrong treatment for a wrong diagnosis. Does this solve the problem?


I imagine Some of these mismanaged cases of mental illness now display in the communities, streets of different towns, where the victims are left to suffer psychologically and ponder on their own, stigmatized by the community members because of the situation.


Mental health is basically concern with thinking, feeling and acting, and such an individual usually feels confident, productive and engage in the community hence able to overcome social challenges. Ironically mentally ill people may act in deviant ways, for instance, have suicidal ideation, isolate the self from others, have bad dreams among others.

Mental health problems are triggered by many issues of which among them is traumatic events, grief, continues hardship, addiction, and human abuse. This can be clearly distinguished from witchcraft related problems based on signs and symptoms.


Everyone is entitled to a healthy life and I believe so with mental health so we need to take responsibility and take care of mental health and in the same way, report any suspected mental illness to mental health units or mental health professionals for medical attention and management immediately.


Daniel comboni ocen


Our Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviours

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The cognitive-behavioural theoretical approach enables us to understand how anxiety or depression comes into existence in our daily living based on the three functions of our life i.e. the thought, feelings, and behaviour.


Among most communities in Africa, people use three stones to wage the saucepan when cooking using firewood and in case one is missing or not of the same size, the saucepan may not balance well on the fire stones. This may help us to understand how our thoughts, feelings and behaviors act when our thinking is negative hence affecting feelings and behaviors negatively, and vice versa.


1. Thoughts

We commonly have thoughts instance self-criticism which frequently resurfaces in our thoughts and often breaks us down or holds back the zeal to move forward. Without awareness of these thoughts, our feelings and behaviors get shaped negatively. It is helpful to take note of such and work on your positive attitude.


Thoughts may come out through many ways as discussed below; (Source: Burns, David D., MD. 1989. The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: William Morrow and Company):


  • All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
  • Over-generalization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  • Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.
  • Disqualifying the positives: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In this way, you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
  • Jumping conclusions: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
  • Mind reading:  You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out.
  • Fortune telling: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
  • Magnification (Catastrophizing) or minimization: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.”
  • Emotional reasoning:  You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”
  • Should statements: You try to motivate yourself with should and shouldn’t, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “thoughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequences are guilt.
  • Labeling and mislabeling: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself. “I’m a loser”. When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him “he’s a looser”.  Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
  • Personalisation: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event, which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.


2. Feelings

Emotions are expressed verbally and its how a person feels internally. For instance “I feel like no one cares” hence it makes you feel sad, “I am hated” hence you isolate yourself among others.  All this originates from our thoughts.


Although our feelings stem from what we think of, we should be able to realign or justify our thoughts so as to guide feelings. This strongly calls for exploration of the emotions.


3. Emotions

Behaviors are outcome of our thoughts and our emotions. When we are able to change our thoughts, our behaviors will naturally change. When we are able to shift our emotions, our behaviors will also change. We can also, however, shift our emotions and our cognition by creating changes in our behaviors directly. This can include forcing ourselves to exercise despite the lack of desire to do so, or, attending a social event despite the anxiety experienced around groups of people, etc.


The thoughts, feelings and behaviors interact with each other in causing changes in our life, either negatively or positively. We can use the triangle to create self-awareness and internal ability to manage those thoughts, feelings and resulting behaviors that often times get us out of our control.


Article by Daniel Comboni Ocen

World Mental Health Day

Suicide: the silent killer.

  • World mental health
  • Lighthouse NGO
  • no story should end too soon

10th October 2019 is International Mental Health Day and the theme is Suicide Prevention. The goal is to help raise mental health awareness. Each of us can make a contribution to ensure that people dealing with problems concerning mental health can live better lives with dignity.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year and is named second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-old in the world.

Suicide is highly linked to mental health disorders although in contemporary African society, it may be triggered by series of events that renders the victim unable to sustain the stress related problem such as financial challenges, relationships issues among other social problems.


Many people have attempted to commit suicide, and this predisposes them to the risk of trying to commit suicide again if they don’t get help or proper diagnosis is not done.  We are loosing our loved ones because less attention is offered to try to understand what is beyond our life boundary, and seem less concern of what goes in the life of others only to be shocked by the sad news of an action.


We need to learn to be considerate and kind among each other. Stigma, particularly surrounding mental disorders and suicide, means many people who are having suicidal thoughts or who have attempted suicide are not seeking the help they desperately need.


In the African setting, taboos associated with suicide needs to be broken and initiatives made to prevent suicide as discussed below according to World Health Organization-WHO;

•Reducing access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications);
•School-based interventions;
•Introducing alcohol policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol;
•Early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distress;
•Training of non-specialized health workers in the assessment and management of suicidal behavior;
•Follow-up care for people who attempted suicide and provision of community support.


Thank you for reading and feel free to contact me if you would like to learn more about mental health disorders and suicide.


 Article by Daniel Comboni Ocen


Seeking support for depression

Living with depression can be lonely sometimes. Here are 5 ways you can get support:

family support

1. Look for support from people who make you feel safe and cared for. The person you speak to may not be able to solve the problem but they are worth giving a listening ear with unconditional positive regard and compassion.


2. Make face-time talks. Eye to eye contact plays great role relieving us of the depressive feelings because what we experienced internally are expressed verbally through conversation. Find out the people you relate with and engage in an interaction. In the contemporary society, Phone calls, social media, and texting are great ways to stay in touch, but they don’t replace good old-fashioned in-person quality time.


social activities

3. Engage in social activities despite the feeling to withdraw. In most occasion when we are depressed, we find it more comfortable to withdraw into privacy yet involving in public activities reduces the depressive feelings.


4. Provide support to others. The Chinese says “Yin and yean” literally meaning give and receive, when you help another, it enables you also to be on track therefor listen to a friend and be nice to somebody.

support group

5. Join a support group for depression. Associating with others comes along with the benefit of reducing a sense of isolation. Provide support to other victims, share coping mechanism and experience, you would have saved a friend, a sister, brother or relative.


Article by Daniel Ocen

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Addressing Depression in Men

  • Lighthouse NGO

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Men are raised to be strong and always be in control of their emotions. Society expectations about how men should be and behave add more pressure.



So when they experience the feelings of hopelessness or get overwhelmed by despair, they often try to cover it up, or be in denial.

Unfortunately, depression in men often gets overlooked as many finds it difficult to talk about their feelings.


Instead, men tend to focus on the physical symptoms which often accompany (male) depression such as back pain, headaches, sexual problems and so forth.



This often result in underlying depression go untreated.


Men who are suffering from depression are 4x more likely to commit suicide than women. Unlike women, men find it hard to talk about their feelings. Lot’s of men pride’s and ego gets in the way of them seeking help because they don’t want to be perceived as weak.



Despite growing depression awareness around the world, mental health is still a taboo subject among us which has caused many to feel that the only way out is suicide.


According to Men’s Foundation report; 18 men commits suicide due to depression every day! Let that sink in. these are the lives that could be saved if we could only stop stigmatizing mental illness. these are the lives that could be saved if we could only stop shaming those who are suffering from mental illness!


I have found out that most people in our black communities, depression is regarded as a white people’s illness. Depression does not have colour. Misunderstanding, ignorance and lack of mental health education are at the root of stigmatization. These factors have inflicted immense suffering to those suffering.


Can we get this right? Depression is more than just sadness, it is a serious condition which has an impact on both the physical and mental health. It is not necessarily brought on by any certain event or distressing circumstances. Rather it manifests without any determinable trigger.


Other depression causes include genetic disorder, chemical imbalance in the brain, drugs, stress.


Here’s a quick sad extent of suicide caused by depression in South Africa;


In 2012, about 6 133 suicides were reported. with majority of suicide victims being men.

It has also been reported that suicide is the 4th leading cause for young people aged between 15 and 24. These are the lives that didn’t have to end so soon.


“Depression is a vile, consuming, physiological, and life-eclipsing illness of both the body and the mind. It can fill your head with lies; spoken to you in your own voice; telling you that your life is not worth living, that your pain will not end, that you can only end the suffering through self-harm”


Just like any illness, depression can be treated be it through medication, therapy or lifestyle change.


So to every men out here today;


Men get depression.


Men gets suicidal thoughts


Men get mental illness


Men cry.


Men break down.


It is not unmanly to struggle.


So maybe instead of us saying man up, lets say its okay to talk about it.


Lets encourage men to speak out, not letting them suffer in silence.

Why talk therapy works

Author: D Tolo

Talk therapy (psychotherapy), is based on the core idea that talking about the things that are bothering you can help clarify them and put them in perspective.


Talking about your thoughts and feelings can help you greatly when you feel troubled about something.


Dark thoughts or worry can overpower you if don’t let it out by talking. The voices in your head can make a molehill of a situation into a mountain.

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New Beginnings

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I’m obsessed with taking pictures of sunrise because of what it represents.


Every morning we are presented with an opportunity to start afresh and put into practice the lessons we learned from yesterdays.


Dwelling in the past prevent us to move on from our failures and pain. We get so stuck up on how bad we screwed up or how we could’ve done better and as a result we let it define us.


I have learned since learned how to forget my past, to forgive myself and begin again – and I must say it is getting easier everyday. I no longer find myself crying in the corner contemplating on how I could’ve done better.


The amazing thing about this life is we can always begin again.

Fear and Anxiety

Fear can be loosely described as the believe that there is something that is out there that is going to get you and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.


Fear can represent itself in different ways such as worry, panic, hopelessness, nervousness, stress, etc.


In most cases fear can spring in your life from variety of sources. Perhaps you are experiencing fear as a result of trying to conceal mistakes / imperfections. Or you perhaps you are ashamed of something you have done in the past and you fear that it will come to light one day.


Or if you are like me, you are experiencing fear because as a result of trying to control too many things in your life.


Fear and anxiety usually go hand in hand.

Fear often serves to prepare people for a perceived future threat and find potential solutions to problems, however worrying itself can become compulsive and people can develop a sense of lack of control or over their worrying, which may constitute a disorder.


Let’s have a look at the difference responses between fear anxiety:


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Underlying causes of depression among young people in Africa.


The ages of 16-35 remain the most vulnerable in society living below the poverty line with little access to resources including education and jobs.

One of the biggest challenges we are facing as young people today is depression, which is a medical problem, but it is not taken seriously in our communities.

Can we get this right? Depression is more than just sadness, it is a serious condition which has an impact on both physical and mental health.

It is not necessarily brought on by any certain event or distressing circumstances. Rather it manifests without any determinable trigger.

Did you know that 1 in 10 teenage deaths in South Africa are due to suicide? And 20% of high school learners suffering from depression have attempted suicide? These are the painful statistics and the sad reality we live in. 
I have found out that most people in our black communities, depression is regarded as “white” people’s depression. Depression does not have colour. Misunderstanding, ignorance and lack of education are at the root of stigmatization.

These factors have inflicted immense suffering to those affected in our communities, young people have taken their own lives, believing this is their only way out. It is a tragic outcome where they are afraid to ask for help, fearing they would be perceived as weak.

Depression has many triggers. At times, it’s the situation at home, work, school or in one’s love life. A depressed person can put a smile and a brave face if they want to be perceived as having a strong character. However, some start drinking too much or using drugs to ease the pain, and some withdraw from the outside world. They may lock themselves in their houses, wanting to be alone. Some resort to self-harm. And as mentioned earlier, depression leads to suicide, which may be stigmatized – an act described as selfish, rather than its root cause being examined.

Just like any illness, depression can be treated to be it through medication, therapy or lifestyle change.

So, to the South African youth of today, let us not be defeated by mental illness, go out and seek help. There are lots of non-profit organisation who offer free support programmes. Reach out, don’t suffer in silence

Living in the present moment


You know when you’re facing a tough day or a week, it’s very important to focus on the NOW moment.


You know when you’re facing a tough day or a week, it’s very important to focus on the NOW moment.


You can do this by not dreading the future or regretting the past



Realize that the present moment is all you have and consciously make NOW your primary focus.


This is basically you realizing that it really doesn’t matter what happened yesterday or what the future holds. All that matters is now.

Our brains are future-oriented and this tends to make our stress levels to always be sky high. And if you look at it, the majority of our worries dealing with the issues of the future, what will happen tomorrow, next week, next year, etc.


Have you ever realized that most of the things we worry about have no immediate solution?


So next time worry and anxiety knocks on your door, ask yourself these questions;

By worrying Now, how is that going to change anything?

You don’t have to figure out the future right now, and most importantly you don’t have to live in the past.


So, make it a habit of taking time to pause and reflect on your life and that will help you appreciative and grateful for little moments.


Celebrate your strengths. Appreciate how far you’ve come, and the beauty of your scars.