To encourage conversations around mental health in Malawi, a group of artists teamed up to raise awareness on mental health,one of the silent killers in society.
Organised by House of Basse’iah, storytellers, musicians, dancers and poets came together last week to showcase their talent while creating a supportive environment about mental health in the Malawi an society.
In an artistic presentation bringing awareness of the matter and related issues of stigma and discrimination called Breaking the Silence, the artists took turns on Friday to demystify myths surrounding mental illness in Malawi.
In his poem, Tendai Shaba expressed thoughts of a no mental pain day that people under depression look forward to.
“Sadness makes me numb
Anxiety makes me numb
I pray to reclaim my life so I no longer feel numb,” he recited.
Adding her voice through a poem titled Mixed Emotions which explores mental health issues, Chikondi Kanyenda rendered verbally: “I am a bowl of mixed emotions,
Stirred with worries and baked in ovens of panic attacks, my anxiety makes me lose my breath, I look like im losing my head, my head spins at a million miles an hour, weighing up questions and inadequacies, whispering of fears and past failures on the misbalanced scale of my life.“
Through performing arts, the event sought to create an understanding of the nature and importance of mental health, awareness of the prevalence of mental health issues and impact on society, families and individuals and the availability of professional services for those in need.
It also demystified beliefs which give rise to or propagate stigma and discrimination against those suffering from mental health issues plus inspiring key decision makers to initiate policy reforms to address mental health service needs.
Jazz legend Wambali Mkandawire, who provided mentorship to the artists, said mental health is a serious issue that needs concerted efforts.
He said: “It’s intense, it involves trauma, depression and yet we have music, poetry and dance.
“I am happy we are not sitting here warming up the platform for speeches but that the artists are able to communicate the message in their own right.
“So, the artists are here to deliver the messages from the artistic point of view and not here to entertain.”
Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda, who was the guest of honour, emphasised the importance of realising that mental health affects anyone regardless of class, creed or gender, among other social statuses.
She said: “I had a rude awakening last year when I learnt that a very close member of my family, very educated, was struggling with some mental issues. Everything was going well for her until something happened that trigged her mental state to collapse.
“At that point, you have so many questions but no answers. Mental health is for everybody and especially this year due to Covid-19, a lot is happening. Let’s check on each other and let’s keep conversations on mental health alive.”
Breaking the Silence was part of events organised to mark the World Mental health Day commemorations which falls on October 10.
Set up in 2019, House of Basse’iah seeks to promote the development of arts and artists in Malawi. It is running a series of events exploring important themes and issues affecting Malawi. The events provide the artists with opportunity to develop their interpretive and performance skills.