Tom Olango: “I Felt Something was Out to Get Me and it was Easier For Me to Get Rid of Myself Before it Did”

To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, Bonga, an initiative whose mission is to get people to open up and talk anonymously about what’s weighing heavily on their mind, has been highlighting stories of brave individuals who have shared their story and openly talked about the challenges they face everyday in a bid to inspire others going through the same and raise awareness on mental health.

We caught up with Tom Olango, bass guitar player, concert producer and Managing Director, Jamhuri events.

“My journey in and out of depression started in 2015. At the age of 22, I was at the peak of my career having played for top Kenyan artists and hosted one of the most successful Kenyan festivals; Jamhuri festival which was a chronological journey of Kenyan pop music over the past 2 decades.

By all standards, this is was a major success.

What do you do after you feel like you’ve accomplished everything? What’s the step up?

To be honest, I kept pushing and working after the festival but I was also very frustrated with the progress in the industry. At the same time, I was not able to balance my work, music, school and the new company I had just set up.

I got caught up in my own head, abused drugs and other substances. I did not take care of myself, I didn’t eat right and this only heightened my negative thoughts and energy.

I dropped out of school, my thoughts were dark and clouded and it was a downward spiral from there.

One night I went to visit my friend and that night I had suicidal thoughts. I felt like there was something that was out to get me and it was easier for me to get rid of myself before it did.

I called a friend who I hadn’t spoken to in two years who called me a cab and shortly after that I took the next bus to my parents’ house. Coming from an African family, mental health should not be talked about… you’re either sane or insane. To my parents, this meant that I had evil spirits and I needed prayers.

What people don’t realise is that the brain is a part of the human your body like any other. If you get the flu today, you get treatment for that and you wouldn’t be shy to tell a friend… I have the flu today.

That needs to be the same when it comes to mental health. We need to talk more about mental health and that doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world for you.

Bonga is amazing because you can actually stay anonymous if you’re not ready to share your story with the rest of the world. We are all going through a lot and no one has everything figured out. We’re all trying to find the balance!

Never shy from talking. I know it can be scary but you have to face your fears and be patient with yourself.”

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