USIU-Africa Pharmacy students launch mind matters initiative

By Aisha Ahmed and Rutendo Nissi

On the afternoon of February 8, a group of Pharmacy students affiliated with the Pharma Incubation Hub, a fellowship program dedicated to equipping aspiring pharmacists with essential skills, hosted the memorable and dynamic talk and panel discussion titled ‘Mind Matters: Breaking the Silence on Mental Health.’ This social impact initiative was birthed by the strong will of the organizing team to contribute to the realization of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Distinguished guest speakers graced the occasion, each bringing invaluable expertise to the theme. Among them was Lydia Winda, USIU-Africa’s senior counselor and a seasoned psychologist boasting 14 years of experience in sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, and life skills. Lydia's dedication has been evident through her tireless support for numerous students on campus, earning her recognition as a trusted counselor and advocate. During her session, Lydia adeptly addressed the prevalent issue of pharmacy students being overburdened with academic demands, often at the expense of their well-being, resulting in adverse health effects. Her insightful advice emphasized the importance of self-awareness, urging students to prioritize their mental and physical health. By encouraging students to recognize signs of stress and seek assistance when needed, Lydia provided invaluable guidance for fostering a healthy balance amidst demanding academic schedules. The session proved to be enlightening and resonated deeply with attendees, leaving a lasting impact on our collective understanding of self-care and well-being.

Shukriya Mahat, a wholistic practitioner trained in functional medicine and the co-founder of the Coalition for Action for Preventative Mental Health Kenya (CAMPHK), an organization accelerating mental health ecosystems with over 120 community-based Organizations (CBOs) and non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), aimed at implementing local interventions by drawing on indigenous resources to address mental health challenges in Kenya, delivered a highly impactful and captivating talk. Drawing on her seven years of experience in community work, promoting a preventative outlook on mental health. Taking a psychosomatic, biology-based approach, Shukriya elucidated the various dimensions of stress, its multifaceted expressions by the body and how one can take a self-regulating approach to maintaining awareness of their well-being to achieve sustainable mental health. As the majority of the attendees were students from the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, the scientific facts presented throughout the talk greatly enriched the discussion.

As the curtains fell on the Mind Matters event, the interactive question and answer session illuminated the pivotal importance of destigmatizing mental health challenges. In a profound moment, Shukriya emphasized, "People who can cry are the bravest," encapsulating the essence of embracing the vulnerability and courage inherent in acknowledging and expressing one's emotions.

The Mind Matters initiative stands as a testament to the power of collective issue and the urgency for unwavering commitment to destigmatizing mental health challenges and fostering a preventative perspective on mental health optimization. May it serve as a reminder to empower ourselves by prioritizing our mental health and pave the way for a future where holistic well-being is wholeheartedly embraced.

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