Shame. Guilt. Fear of judgement. These factors are some of the reasons why Ethiopians who endure mental illnesses choose to suffer alone instead of seeking help. Even the term “mental illnesses” is a barrier; like a scarlet letter that is attached to someone’s chest, too many would rather be in denial and struggle on their own with contrived smiles than be labeled with a medical condition.
The truth though is that most of us, at one point in life or currently, have endured bouts of sadness and stress. Mental wellness is not an issue confined to just the fraction of society who are diagnosed with depression, anxiety or more debilitating forms of illnesses, to be human means to go through periods that try our souls and test our abilities to cope.
Sadly, in the Ethiopian community, mental illnesses are so taboo that the topic is either mischaracterized or ignored all together. In this paradigm, ailments that could be treated and suffering that could be ameliorated instead fester to the extent that some take drastic measures in order to cope. There is a reason why addiction, violence and suicides are surging within our communities; pains that are not tended to evolve into transgressions or self-harm.
What was once rare has become the norm as more and more Ethiopians, young and elders alike, seek permanent solutions to problems that could otherwise be resolved. Lack of information and fear of dishonor are leading too many within our community to early graves. We can no longer ignore these problems, it is vital that we address an issue that is impacting more and more families.
On Saturday, August 17th, we will be hosting a symposium that is centered on mental health and wellness within the Ethiopian community. Though the event is free and open to the public, our aim is to address this vexing issue specifically within the Ethiopian community in order to lift the stigma off the topic of mental wellness.
Hosted by Bethlehem Bekele, a panel comprised of mental health doctors and trained counselors along with spiritual counselors from the Ethiopian Orthodox, Evangelical and Muslim faiths will lead a discussion on ways to identify mental health issues and how to address the root causes. Sina Demsash, who is also a trained mental health practitioner, will also share a moving first-hand account of her experiences with family members who struggle with mental illnesses.
If you are in the DC metro area, we invite you to attend the Tenenet event and take part in this much needed conversation. You can RSVP by CLICKING HERE or on the event flyer at the bottom of this article. If you are not in the DC area, we are making arrangements to live stream the panel discussion (we will not be recording the audience members) so that you can tune in and watch live.
In the days leading up to the event, we ask everyone to use social media for a purpose and share your stories about how you are either dealing with mental health issues or have overcome them in the past. Use #TenenetEthiopia to share this article and also use the same hashtag to share your stories. At the bottom of this article is a widget that pulls up Tweets that have #TenenetEthiopia and displays them so that you can see other people who are sharing their stories.
The most important thing you can do to help someone who is suffering from mental health issues, or for yourself if you are the one enduring mental illness, is to know that they are not alone. There is no shame in admitting that we struggle, in fact there is pride one should take for having the courage to admit difficulties, seeking help and helping others in the process.
Location: Arlington Central Library
Address: 1015 N. Quincy St. Arlington, VA
Date: Saturday, August 17th
Time: 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM EST
RSVP by CLICKING HERE