Interviewed via form.

1. Please introduce yourself.

“I’m Vayunamu and I’m from Abuja, Nigeria, but I currently live in California, USA. I’m a writer and photographer also interested in travel, fashion, and sustainability. I got my BA in International Relations from the University of San Diego in 2019 and I’ve worked as a photojournalist and in the nonprofit sector because I’m interested in people and how we structure ourselves around issues of community and power. I spend a lot of my time exploring alone and finding ways to entertain myself. Other times, I’m with my friends or reading somewhere.”

2. What does mental health mean to you?

“To me, mental health is the process of crafting a life for myself that I don’t have to escape from. It means putting systems in place that take care of me and keep me healthy so that I live my life as best as possible. I recognize that I need a complex framework of upkeep to ensure that I am my best self so mental health for me is allowing myself to be high-maintenance in that sense, deserving of all that it will take to have a good, healthy life.”

3. How do you deal with your own mental health?

“The mind is probably the most sensitive part of us but really powerful too so I take its care very seriously. I know how much it limits me, but also how far I can go when it’s open and willing so I try to take note of the tough things that I need to work on. Baking or lighting a candle can help me feel good but I like to get deeper if I can. Keeping physically fit and eating well are tough routines to establish, but I’ve learned in therapy that those two things do wonders for my mental health because they are directly connected to how good I feel since I’m taking care of my body. I love to write and journaling is great to sort out my thoughts. Along with exercise, it helps me get out of my head. I also establish boundaries (aka terms & conditions) with others and myself that keep me well and healthy because relationships are a huge part of wellbeing.”

4. Any particular psychological condition/disorder that means a lot to you?

“Learning about trauma/traumatic disorders and how they show up in our lives is important to me because it is very common and relatable. The idea that trauma involves intense, often life-threatening events means it is closer to all of us than we might think. Trauma can be inherited, which makes me think of my family structures and what I can do for myself and my community with that in mind. People go through life-threatening events often, whether we see them as that or not, and we don’t always share them but if we were able to maybe we could make things a bit better for ourselves and the world.”

5. do you believe that the stigma has reduced a significant amount in your community?

“I think that the stigma around mental health in Nigeria is reducing in my generation. We are more open to talking about the stress and anxieties of life regardless of how good we think we have it. In other words, we are acknowledging that being mentally healthy can be challenging despite having basic needs met. There is some tension there with the generations before us but we are more understanding of the fact that in addition to addressing physical needs, mental and emotional needs need to be met as well. This might be because we are able to see and interact with other people in other parts of the world and how they deal with issues of mental health.”

Check out Vayunamu!

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