Mental health and the African culture #NationalMentalHealthDay

Last week was a rough week mainly because I did not have my headphones. If you have ever forgotten your headphones on a Monday, imagine not having them for the whole week. You have New Yorkers yelling at each other on the train because rush hour can be hard on everyone and then the catcallers are worse when you don’t have your headphones. To make a long week short, I ended it with a nervous breakdown because my UPS was late and there was no way I was getting n the subway without my headphones. While waiting for the UPS guy for what seemed like two hours with my best friend Deanna on the phone reminding me that better days are coming, I got my headphones and within a second, I was back to the Reginah who is living her New York dreams.

Mental health has become very important to me. For most of my teens and early twenties, people I cared about made me believe that I was a terrible person but after a few hours on my therapist’s couch, I realized that I'm just a little depressed. I learned what to do when the days get dark and surrounded myself with friends who understood the importance of mental health. We are a small circle but we are there for each other; reminding each other to go out and feel the sunshine on our faces when a work day seems like a day from hell. The African part of my Runway wouldn’t know what to do if they caught me on a day where I was having a nervous breakdown because UPS was late with my headphones. They would probably tell me that it was a first world problem and that I need to get over it. I bet a lot of Africans think that mental health is a first world problem. I can do a follow up post about this on a day when I feel like being transparent with you.

World Mental health Day is on October 10th and it is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. Here are a few sad facts I came across when I was researching the relationship between the African culture and mental health. In 2005, the World Health Organization endorsed mental health as a universal human right.

The desire for Africans to free themselves from French colonialist rule was evidence of a mental disorder’ a “fact” taught in French Universities in the 1960s.

Many African countries in particular, are guilty of discriminating, marginalizing and violating their people who suffer from mental disorders

They connect mental illness as a lack of motivation or worse willpower rather than a lack of resources and education.

Mental illness is branded as evil or witchcraft. The so called “spiritual healers” aka abalogo will chain someone who is mentally ill to trees by their ankles and leave them to sleep, urinate and bathe in the same spot. Some patients could be  chained for five months or so.

Some governments will put those mentally ill in jail. I wouldn’t be surprised if my country Uganda was one on this list.

So many stigmas are  attached to mental disorders but to bring down this barrier, governments, health institutions and professionals should work on changing the public attitudes and also advocate for the rights of people with mental disorders.

We can start by knowing the appropriate response when our loved ones open to us about their mental disorders. The ignorance has to stop because it can get real.

Thank you for walking on my Runway. I can be reached at  if you can relate to the African culture and mental health and would like to share your story or you don’t have someone you can be open about it with. I might not be a professional but I bet I will have a better response than your traditional relatives. Don't forget to take care of yourself.

With love
Miss Runway




  1. You know... as am reading this before I even get to the bottom of the story, I remember just today on BBC Swahili a Kenya musician just disclosed to the world that he had mental problems that caused him to pick fights with his managers and he actually had to come back and appologied after finding out he was mentally unstable (if that is what its called). It also took me a while to realise that I might be having the same problem that causes paranoia... anywas that is my African way of thinking lol, thanks to reginah's runway I now know 10th October is world mental health day. We should all go for acheck up before you pick it up with the big boss

    1. Sending good vibes to the Kenyan artist and to you. It is good to be aware of our mental health because if you find out after picking it up with the big boss, it wont be long before you find out that you are out of a job


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