Kindness is key if we are ever going to beat the current global mental health epidemic. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 100 million people kill themselves each year, Ireland has the 4th highest teen suicide rates in Europe, the mental health of students is under siege. Mental health services, the world over, cannot cope, there are simply not enough doctors for each person in mental pain and let's not even try to tackle the figures in the developing world or war torn regions where the mental health of future generations has been tested by atrocities and horrors that those in the peaceful world cannot even fathom. As I watch the Rohingya crisis unfold and see a persecuted people flee from Burma to the borders of Bangladesh, I see the terror in their faces, their villages burnt and their mental health crumble.
Painting depicting the Rohingya refugee crisis (2017, pen and ink on 30 foot War on a Scroll part 3) Photo of artwork courtesy of the artist, Sanchita Islam
This October I am doing a series of projects across Malaysia, London and Brussels, combining music, spoken word, visual art, neon mental health text installations and talks at various venues, with the support of organisations like the British Council, the Arts Council and various galleries (Wilford X Gallery), book shops (Brick Lane Bookshop, Silverfish), supporters and colleagues (Malaysian Mental Health Association) around the world in a bid to raise awareness and dispel stigma.
I applaud the efforts of Prince William, Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge with their inspiring Heads Together campaign and Harry's candid admission of his own mental health struggle and those of his, now deceased, mother Princess Diana.
Childhood trauma, bereavement, emotional, physical bullying, the intense pressure that young people face when thrust in both the real and virtual world, and the trauma of war all impact on the delicate balance of synapse connections in our brains. We must all try and be more humane and empathetic to those in mental pain. The mental health of my children is of paramount importance, but how can I safeguard theirs when mine seems under constant siege, a mind I long to be a garden, yet post the psychosis of 2009, is now a landmine filled with undetonated bombs that can quickly be triggered.
My Mental Health 4 All campaign and mental music events keep me going. I see the impact that speaking openly about mental health has on others. Recently I performed my music at Rich Mix (London) and Wilford X Gallery (Brussels). Since I recalled memories of child sex abuse in March 2016 I have composed 160 pieces of music. After recalling these harrowing memories I pieced together what happened to me before the age of 4, spoke to numerous mental health care practitioners and child sex abuse counsellors. I still wonder if the memories are real or some psychotic aberration. My colleague, the eminent psychiatrist, Dr Thys said that psychosis is often born out of deep pain and trauma in childhood. The first 1001 days of a child's life are critical; if trauma occurs during this period, it will invariably impact on a nascent developing brain. We must safeguard the mental health of mothers and their young children to ensure a mentally health global planet.
Despite the profound shock of recalling the CSA, I no longer wish to dwell on a moribund and irrevocable past, but try to make each day count and ensure my children grow up to be mentally robust.
My immediate concern is for other kids who have been sexually abused, who are often not believed. In some tragic cases survivors can turn to drugs, alcohol and other self-destructive forms of behaviour - even suicide - as their mental health slowly crumbles. The mental music that I have produced is designed to soothe the brain, it is not made for commercial gain, fame or money, its sole purpose is to ameliorate mental pain.
This World Mental Health Day, be kind to people you know or meet who are suffering from the mental anguish. Kindness goes a very long way to heal and soothe a broken mind.
I accepted long ago that I am broken, but art, words, music, my children and helping others motivates me to stay well. It is only through being kind that we can get through this mental health storm and see the light once again.