An artist and mental health advocate Stephanie Maseki has called on Kenyans to shun shying away from mental health disorders saying there is no shame in sharing suicidal thoughts.
Speaking to KNA while premiering her film Toxicity at Little Theatre in Mombasa Saturday, Stephanie said Kenya and Africans generally termed mental health as a western disease and not practical in the continent.
“I realized Kenyans do not like to talk about some things and have a culture of keeping quiet about some important topics. People have kept quiet about mental health leading to large numbers of deaths from depression directly and indirectly including suicides,” said Stephanie.
She called on Kenyans to start having open conversations on mental health especially during these tough times occasioned by the Corona pandemic where cases of mental health have been reported including women killing their husbands since they were not used to staying together for long hours.
Stephanie who does her advocacy through art and theatre said it was time Kenyans embraced a culture of conversation about mental health.
“It is a mystery how someone who has it all wakes up one morning and decides to commit suicide. How do you explain an eight year old child committing suicide?” Stephanie posed.
She said the mental health talk is for everybody from children to parents and that it affects children as little as months old. She called on the champions for mental health to talk to the children as much as they reached out to adults.
Stephanie started her art in 2017 after companies reported losing a lot of employees to mental illnesses.
Through art monologues, she has grown over the years culminating to producer and Toxicity is her second film after Behind Closed Hearts.
She said Toxicity is grounded on validation and self-acceptance despite pitfalls in life’s journey.
Stephanie said many people attached their lives on societal expectations that is why if they do not meet those expectations, they are affected mentally.
She called upon corporates to support the mental health talks to ensure the message goes to everyone saying mental health is a sensitive subject that should now focus on all members of the public.
Coast Region Film Classification Board manager Boniface Kioko hinted that Covid-19 has had negative impact on youth employment but the future looks bright after some youth united and produced informative, educative and entertaining pieces on topical issues including mental health, domestic violence youth empowerment, and gender based violence.
He promised to ensure the dissemination of messages on the topical issues is done in adherence to the set guidelines on averting the spread of Covid-19.
He noted that art could pass the mental health talks in a simple and clear manner. “We as the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) team up with these youths to drive the agenda to pass the messages to the masses for behavior change,” said Kioko
He said the department has helped the youth to have a platform where they could showcase their development activities and help them access facilities like the Little Theatre where they have staged their productions.
The KFCB coast manager reiterated that the creative industry is a very rewarding enterprise when taken seriously and urged youth to come together and produce clean content.
By Joseph Kamolo