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read the full story
My name is Malassen Hamida and I am a member of Akili Bomba. I live in Kibera. I joined the group because I have been effected by mental illness through my brothers.
My brothers are experiencing alcoholism and drug addiction. Because of this, they are not able to work, they fight frequently and it has been a problem at home and in the community. I believe they got involved with drugs and alcohol because of peer pressure. They started out chewing mira and when they progressed to drugs and alcohol, they became violent.
I believe many people use alcohol and drugs in Kibera because of low self-esteem, problems with family and relationships and frustration over lack of opportunities and employment.
The addiction problems of my brothers has effected my mental health by causing me to experience anxiety and stress. Whenever they get in trouble, I am the one who is called to mediate the conflict, settle issues with the police or with members of the community who have been affected by my brother’s behaviour. I cope by practicing self-care, like yoga, listening to music and socializing. I also talk to people and my parents, and in that process we are able to solve the issues.
I hope through counselling that my brothers will be able to recover and get guidance on how to cope with their lives.
My field of work is environmental conservation and I believe that this work cannot be done if people are not mentally well. There is a correlation between mental health and the environment. If we do not address mental health, we cannot address the environment. It is people who need to conserve the environment and when they are not mentally well, they are unable to do this. Because of climate change, there is an inadequate supply of water and food, people are losing their homes as as result of things like flooding. All of these problems cause mental health issues for people.
My work with Akili Bomba involves helping to plan events and seminars, training people in Kibera on mental health issues and facilitating group therapy. In group therapy, we sit with members of the community who want to talk and share their experiences about mental health troubles.
I have seen great change in the people that Akili Bomba has been serving. For example, we have a group of garbage collectors who have experienced drug addiction called Walakolo who have been mobilizing themselves to recycle, make money and have been able to reduce their drug and alcohol consumption. This has been a result of the counselling we have been doing with them.
There is mental health stigma in Kibera. People who have mental health issues feel socially isolated. They are judged as being immoral, unfocused, hopeless and without goals when in reality they are suffering from mental illness. Because of the judgment, they get depressed and go deeper into their addictions to cope.
Akili Bomba is challenging mental health stigma by raising awareness for mental illnesses and educating people on the underlying causes of mental illness. After we speak to people, they acknowledge that mental illness does exist and that people experience it cannot help it. So, there is less blame against these people.
My hope for the future of the group is that we will reach more people and encourage more people to become mental health champions.