Wanjiru Njiru is a content creator based in Nairobi, Kenya. Wanjiru joined Hekaya for the panel discussion entitled Mental Health In A Digital Age, where we discussed the effects that social media has on mental health and how to rise above the noise.
How have you been personally affected or tackled mental health in your career?
I made my first video in 2015, and I think I had a very naive view or understanding of what a career in social media meant. At that point there wasn't a lot of information about the kind of self-work that needed to be done. I went into this career focusing on the technical aspect without having knowledge on the kind of work which ties largely to your mental health. So, for a period of time I was just navigating it blindly, without actually really understanding how social media was affecting me internally.
Do you think we're getting better at addressing mental health in Kenya? And what more can we do essentially?
I believe we are getting better because the first step to everything is having a conversation about it. It has been great to see the mental health discussions that even us as influencers can relate to, because more often than not we are expected to lead the pack in terms of having these conversations. The more we keep on having these conversations, the more I think we will finally get to a place where this is not a taboo.
Do you think there's any sort of cultural and societal stigma associated with mental health?
Although I believe that that we're getting better, there is still a lot of stigma. From a personal experience, I knew somebody who suffered from mental health, but you could see the negative way in which the family handled it. This individual was just struggling with his or her own issues, but the work was not put in to understand the root cause due to cultural aspects. However, there is now more willingness to discuss mental health with the younger generation.
"Talk to someone you trust. Get it out in the open. It's amazing how a conversation enables you to begin to process how you feel"
On the cultural and societal issue, do you think that people feel comfortable talking to their parents about it? Is there a little bit more of an acceptance or is there a lot more work that that needs to be done there?
From a personal experience, there's been a lot of education with my parents and trying to make them understand mental health. I believe it is really important to have conversations with the older generation and educate them about mental health and how their perceptions differ. Even with the issue of therapy. Again, for our parents therapy was only when you were really, really sick. However, we now look at therapy as just a form of self care.
How do you manage the balance between being on social media and staying connected and switching off?
I began as a content creator in 2015, but it is only now, six years later, when I'm really learning the balance and what I want to share. For example, I am not shy about sharing aspects of my relationship, but we've also created boundaries. As much as we share, we are also very keen on not showing the romanticised parts of our relationship. I believe it is important to remember that the more you learn and discover yourself, the more you will able to manage and create boundaries.
What tips and tricks have worked for you in managing your mental health?
Basically, I think my biggest one would be to create boundaries. Apart from finding what works for you in terms of self-care from meditation to exercise, people also need to become more comfortable in voicing when they are not ok and when they need some more support. This conversation does need to become more normalised which will allow more open and honest discussion to occur around mental health.