Positive African Values for Your Mental Health

Positive African Values for Your Mental Health

The state of mental health among Africans in Africa and beyond, is less than ideal. We are gradually learning that there are very unhealthy aspects of African culture, that harm our mental health. Examples include suppression of the opinions and abuse of children in the name of ‘discipline,’ the art of presenting a “perfect” appearance and covering up terrible things, amongst others. This can make it easy to condemn our culture altogether. 

However, there’s a saying that, “You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” There are positive African values that when applied in a healthy manner, help to boost our mental health. We can hold on to these, while we let go of the problematic aspects of our culture. 

Community and Support

I remember what it was like to be an African graduate student in Wyoming, one of the least diverse states in the US. For most Africans, this would be a nightmare, but my experience there was generally good. There was a strong supportive community of African students. If someone had a car, they would give rides to those who did not. If people needed help with information, finances, moving, etc., we count on each other for that support. When I was going through an emotionally tough time, I had African sisters and brothers who were there for me. Traditional African culture was built on community. Helping your neighbor (anyone you come into contact with), was an expectation. Knowing that even complete strangers would offer help in difficult moments helps alleviate the pain of feeling alone in your struggle. This is one of the strongest positive African values we have. 

Hard Work

Hard work is good for your mental health? Yes, it actually is. Working hard teaches you to try give your best in life. It teaches you not to sell yourself short. This means that, when you start your journey to improved mental health, you’re likely to will in the work needed to experience growth and healing. I see this in goal-setting with my clients. When we set goals, there is an attitude of determination to cross out items on the goal list. This handwork gives clients a sense of achievement that encourages them to keep going. 

Good Character

There is a popular bible verse that states that, “A good name is better than riches.” This is something that most African culture encourages and celebrates. Previously, when someone was said to come from a ‘good home’, rather than finances, this description was based mostly on character. The characters of the members of a family were important, even in deciding on marriage. As one of the positive African values, good character encourages people to work on personal unhealthy character traits. Something I have seen many of my clients do and something I’m dedicated to myself. 

Resilience

If resilience is not built into our DNA, it is definitely one of the major positive African values. This is an undeniable fact. Africans are resilient. Our history and our present is evidence of this. Resilience helps us to persevere even in the darkest circumstances. I see this a lot with myself and my clients. We have and continue to persevere through the challenges we face. Some of the experiences that people share with me, show me how prevalent resilience is in our communities. They show me how we generally don’t give up as a people. Because of this I’ve have shared many breakthrough moments with people, because they didn’t give up. 

Conclusion

Having interacted, lived with and worked with many different Africans, I have seen the above positive values in their cultures. Once used in a healthy way, especially in therapy, Africans can leverage these values to experience tremendous healing and growth in their lives, and improved mental health. 

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