Here is the full text and summary of Sangu Delle’s talk titled “There’s no Shame in Taking Care of Your Mental Health.”
Sangu Delle – Entrepreneur
Last year was hell. It was my first time eating Nigerian “jollof.” Actually, in all seriousness, I was going through a lot of personal turmoil. Faced with enormous stress, I suffered an anxiety attack.
On some days, I could do no work. On other days, I just wanted to lay in my bed and cry. My doctor asked if I’d like to speak with a mental health professional about my stress and anxiety.
Mental health? I clammed up and violently shook my head in protest. I felt a profound sense of a shame. I felt the weight of stigma.
I have a loving, supportive family and incredibly loyal friends, yet I could not entertain the idea of speaking to anyone about my feeling of pain. I felt suffocated by the rigid architecture of our African masculinity: “People have real problems, Sangu. Get over yourself!”
The first time I heard “mental health,” I was a boarding school student fresh off the boat from Ghana, at the Peddie School in New Jersey.
I had just gone through the brutal experience of losing seven loved ones in the same month. The school nurse, concerned about what I’d gone through — God bless her soul — she inquired about my mental health. “Is she mental?” I thought. Does she not know I’m an African man? Like Okonkwo in “Things Fall Apart,” we African men neither process nor express our emotions. We deal with our problems.