COLUMN: This year I started engaging and writing about mental health. A precarious topic upon which to tread, as there is so much stigma attached to it sadly. However, much to my amazement, I found that people were looking for someone to voice what they were feeling, experiencing, or observing in others. Doing so as Dr. John Steytler, economist, advisor, former Statistician-General gave the subject and issues surrounding mental health a lot more credence than I had ever imagined. It was truly humbling and in fact, inspired me to write more articles and engage with mental health professionals. Finding ways in which we could assist the Namibian nation in these exceedingly tough times.
We thought the end of 2020 would usher in a new and improved year in the form of 2021, however, we were very much mistaken. The way the COVID-19 pandemic and especially the third wave wreaked havoc was almost unbearable. We all have family members, friends, colleagues, or acquaintances that are no longer here because of the pandemic. The winter months were especially brutal and there seemed to be no respite. Thankfully, we did manage to turn the corner slowly and the light at the end of the tunnel came in the form of the roll-out of the vaccines and the warmer weather. Sadly, major damage had been done, both physically and mentally.
Staying strong, pushing your feelings down, or simply ‘dealing with it’…was not really an option, but the relentless daily deaths gave us no choice. A collective feeling of numbness enveloped the nation, which is slowly lifting now we are heading towards the end of the year and Christmas and New Year.’ Once again hoping for a better year to come in the form of 2022.
This is perfectly natural, people are resilient and generally look on the positive side of life. However, I would implore everyone to not only party, braai, chill, and nap over the holidays. Take time to take stock of what happened in 2021. The good, the bad, and the very ugly. Without work pressure, deadlines, and school demands, take a moment to reminisce and to truly grieve for the ones that we lost this year. The resilience that we need as a nation to bounce back from what we have gone through can only occur if we deal with it properly. Embrace the loss, the grief, the sense of hopelessness and reflect upon it. These feelings will be amplified as the holiday season is a time of togetherness and sadly not all of us can be together again.
This sounds very depressing and morose, but simply glossing over it, passing it by as if it was just a blip in life, or part of life is not the right approach. Honor the people that have passed by taking a moment and giving it a proper place in your heart and in your mind. This will be the best way to prepare you for whatever 2022 brings. Especially if we look at other parts of the world where it seems as if the fourth wave is about to hit or already underway.
Readying yourself for whatever may come, having a positive frame of mind is exceedingly important. What’s even more vital is to know that you will not always be able to have a positive mindset and that it is ‘ok to not be ok.’ This cannot be emphasized enough. We all go through ups and downs, whatever age we may be, so remember that for 2022 and let’s face it together as a nation and showcase our resilience.
A Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to everyone!
Written by Dr. John Steytler in his personal capacity