Saturday, September 5, 2015

Start today, Start with what you have

My Home office
I am home with nothing on my calendar and that is good news for is more than good news, it is a WONDER in my world. I have gotten to a point in my life where I am constantly on the move; handling office work, building partnerships, keeping up with my school work and now leading the Nairobi Chapter of Wives in Waiting. I cannot remember a weekend in the new past that my calendar had no activities and so being at home is so serile, my house is even happier than me, we get to bond and spring clean. This morning i decided to treat my home office which had been neglected for sometime and I came across the theory of change canvas (blue manilla on desk) I made in Sept 2013 when I did a one week accelerator program with Spark International (Kaitlin and Aaron; the founder are angels - The Sticky Notes on the Maroon wall are encouraging words from all my cohort mates that I look at whenever I feel like shutting everything down - Story for another day)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Open Spaces - Kenya's Lets talk #suicide project

This blog post is for everyone who wants to be part of the open spaces project.

As mentioned in the previous post , I am collecting narratives from people who have attempted suicide or lost a loved one through suicide. The aim of this project is to open spaces in people's heart that have been filled with guilt and shame after a suicide attempt, open spaces in families to discuss this hushed subject. 

Last year September, which is suicide prevention month, I launched what is Kenya's first and only FREE mental health SMS line 22214 through which people can get info and support. To date we have gotten over 19000 hits on the line.
This coming Suicide Prevention month, I am collecting narratives.‎ Once we get the narratives, we will do pictorial representations for an exhibition‎ and also see if some of the people are comfortable sharing their faces or parts of their household items or items of someone who they loved that committed suicide.The exhibitions will be in both online and offline spaces where discussions on suicide and mental health in general will be held. ‎
So far I have partnered with Patricia Esteve, a photographer  who will do the pictorial bit of things and Project Semicolon an international movement that uses the semi colon as a symbol of hope with the tag line; my story isn't over, neither is your...the logic behind it is to use it as used in the English Language to mean the sentence goes on...simply tell people that their story is not over. My organization, My Mind My Funk and the FREE SMS 22214 are also on stand by to provide psychological support to everyone who contributes and need help in their healing journey.

I'd appreciate if  you shared this in your networks and a link to my blog post on my inspiration for this project  or simply use the above brief to do a blog post.
If you have an idea on how I can amplify this campaign or a way you think you can support or partner with this project, making videos, a better poster, printing tshirts, tag lines, media links, social media campaign feel free to share with me. We are all stakeholders in mental health.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

This project will spark conversation about suicide

It is 5.15a and I haven't gone to bed yet. I know it is not healthy but my body has been really acting up lately, so i have spells of oversleeping then spells of no sleep like today where i kept myself busy. I am finishing up the announcement of something a working on...the project, not a project but the project, that will spark conversation about suicide.

I know…like wow, where it your prototype?

Well for everything I have ever done, I am my own prototype.

For so long we have asked for safe spaces but I want an open space.

I want an open space where I can talk about my suicide attempts, yes attempts, without fear of the government and their penal code jumping on me.

I want an open space where I can tell people how it felt right before I took that handful of drugs without the church excommunicating me.

I want an open space where I won’t be considered weak when I say that when I hit the depression side of my bipolar, I think of suicide and how the world would be without me.

I want an open space where I can still be a successful social entrepreneur and innovator whose triumphs are not applauded just because of hard work and smart thinking but also recognize the inspiration drawn from those moments when I planned to take my life and failed.

I want an open space where despite my struggles with suicide, I can still be a good citizen, an upright Christian, a strong award winning change maker.

The first time I ever thought of and attempted suicide was 12 years ago.
I had just gotten raped and I knew I cant do this life thing anymore, if this was living…then I am not cut out for it.

As much as I have talked about my rape ordeal and the mental health issues it brought, the amazing mental health organization (My Mind, My Funk) I now run as a result plus the FREE SMS helpline, 22214 I began in an attempt to make mental health info and support accessible to many...suicide has been one of those things I feel I never really got the space to openly address.

Why would you want to speak about suicide you ask, why wouldn't I, i ask back?

We focus so much on the do not commit suicide part of things and forget the part where you have contemplated or attempted suicide how can we help you not to get there again part. Statistics show that those who have attempted are most likely to try again, what are we doing? I have been very passionate about this but never really got a way round it till now. Before I have done posts about suicide, when I had the project in Kibera, suicide was one of the things we discussed in one of the sessions, I remember travelling to Nyeri and visiting Befrienders to see how they support people who call in feeling suicidal and for those who know, I actually began the helpline as my contribution towards providing a space for people who feel alone and suicidal to share.

On a National Scale, the last time we spoke about suicide was when Robin Williams, who wasn’t even a Kenyan, passed on. We have had sons and daughters of prominent people here committing suicide but we won’t speak about it. Universities are full of stories of students who took their lives, every homestead has a story, so what makes suicide such a feared topic?

In the last few weeks, three main events, not only reignited my passion for opening spaces for suicide discussions but also reinstalled to me the one conversation I have always wanted to have openly;

1. A tattoo; Yes, a tattoo… a semi colon tattoo to be precise, I learnt about the international movement, project semi colon who are partnering with us on the project, last year and was able to connect with the founder, Amy Bluel on FB where we have been chatting (Read her story Why Me God? Why My Testimony? - A Story of Hope in The Midst of Despair) Her project reminds people,just like a semi-colon in the English language symbolizes, that the story is not over. This ministry spoke to me and I always wanted to get the tattoo but didn’t until recently when I began the process of breaking up with character many of those who read this blog know as the life partner. This transition had the potential to drive me to depression and we all know how that story goes but I kept reassuring myself that my story is not over and got a tattoo to remind myself.

Sondeka Festival Promotion poster, my tattoo and Creatives Garage's CEO's

2. A festival; Sondeka Festival…well this is an annual festival by Creatives Garage that goes down every year, this year we are the charity they are supporting and we will be using this as an open space for these and many other conversations. The interesting part about this is, the lady who runs creatives and I without discussing got the semi colon tattoo on the same day. So that evening we get on FB and she asks me if I have ever heard about the project semi colon, I say yes and that I just got a tattoo and she says I also just got one…and you may just get one if you come to our tent at Sondeka.

3. A Spanish photographer; I know I am sounding more and more out there but that’s life, we need out there stuff to bring us back to life. Patricia Esteve contacted me asking about statistics and general info about suicide in Kenya after reading my blog. We got talking and she wanted to do some pictures but wasn’t sure how and after a lot of back and forth and truck loads of patience from her we came up with a project to document narratives through written, pictorial, audio and video (depending with person and how comfortable they are). We will then go round the country and world exhibiting this work and sparking those conversations about suicide and mental health.

4. A British Lady who worked at Befrienders UK; 10th September is World Suicide prevention Day and in Kenya we have a branch of Befrienders International that offers a listening service. There is a lady who called me up who is volunteering with the Kenya office and she wanted us to be part of the Kenyan event and tis and the other 3 reasons mentioned about reaffirmed to me that its about time we opened these spaces.

Open spaces for people to have space for other things,
Open the space that is currently filled with shame and guilt,
Open the space to find closure and reconciliation,
Open spaces for you to know that you are not alone,
Open spaces for those who have lost loved ones,
Open spaces because every human deserves an open space.

To participate;
1. Email or text my FREE #mentalhealth SMS helpline 22214 if you would like to share your narrative or that of someone you know who committed suicide and we will get in touch. (So far we have 10 people willing to share their narratives and we are looking to collect as many narratives as possible to spark conversations about this real but taboo issue...we'd like to put the statistics aside for a second and get the real narratives which we will share through photos and captions.PS: we won't show your face if you aren't comfortable but get a photographic representation of the narrative, we aren’t out to shame or guilt trip anyone, society has done a good job so far and my organization will provide the necessary psychological support if needed)
2. Share our call out here and your social media pages
3. Share the narratives we will put up
4. Attend our exhibitions starting with Sondeka
5. Volunteer time or space or refreshments to help organize the exhibition

I feel like this project might end being called Open Spaces, but any other titles. are welcome.