The conversation on mental health and well-being is one that has gained traction over the last few years and particularly in 2020 where the COVID-19 crisis has sparked stress, anxiety, fear sadness and frustration.
With so much going on around us, it is important that we share the stories of brave individuals who have openly talked about their mental health struggles and the challenges they face every day in a bid to inspire others going through the same and raise awareness on the importance of mental health.
We caught up with Eddy Kimani who describes himself as resilient, pragmatic and open minded. He is also an accomplished media practitioner, businessman, trained actor, voice over artist and master of ceremony who shared his struggle with depression and his recovery that led him to discover his new purpose as a mental health advocate.
“It all started in 2014, I had been in media for fifteen years, with twelve of those years spent at Capital FM. I got this great opportunity to work for the county government of Nakuru. I saw it as an opportunity to go and venture into a new space.
Moving to public service from a corporate field was very challenging. I made less money but I was not focusing on that, I was there to make change. I set up several businesses that all failed, took out loans and facilities in an attempt to supplement the income I had lost. In no time I was in a deep financial hole, my family, who I had left in Nairobi, was affected and my marriage was strained.”
Eddy got into a dark place, got into so much debt, substance abuse in the form of alcohol and eventually his marriage failed.
“I was fighting what I did not know then… depression.”
As a man you are always thinking, I can deal with this by myself and coming from a media background, image is everything. I was trying to hide what I was going through and I found comfort alcohol and relationships that had broken my marriage in the first place.
At 37 years, I lost everything I had worked very hard for. I had let myself and everyone down”.
Eddy went to Ukunda after leaving his job in Nakuru and after spending three weeks there he decided to take his own life. He felt that there was nothing more to live for.
“ One night, I decided to end it all with the mosquito net in my room but it did not work. The very next day I bumped into a stranger who recognised me and I shared my pain with him. I just needed someone to talk to. It was the first time I accepted that I was struggling with depression, I had failed in so many ways but I needed to forgive myself for me to start my journey to recovery.”
Eddy came back to Nairobi shortly after that and started to put his life together, looked for a job and started mental health advocacy after sharing his struggles on Engage Talk.
“When Engage asked me to come and talk about my work and I realized I wouldn’t be authentic if I did not talk about what I was just coming out of. I never imagined that interview would push me to this place.
Immediately I shared my story, I felt this huge relief, a therapeutic feeling. I connected with people who also shared their struggles with me and that is the power of sharing stories which I did not know before.”
Eddy has since completed the Quality Rights training course developed and provided by WHO and is now a full time mental health advocate and campaigner. He creates authentic conversations on positiveness and mental well-being especially in the workplace.
“ We always want to hide and suppress things because we do not want people to judge us by what they see. I want people to understand the power of talking and unburdening yourself and I want to use my story to help people who are stuck and are in a dark place. I believe the workplace is one of the most important places where we should see the conversation on mental health and leaders in those organizations opening up more.”
As a result of depression, Eddy now battles Bell’s palsy, a condition that is characterized by muscle weakness that causes one half of the face to droop. His goal is to create awareness on the importance of corporates investing in the mental health of their employees.
“Today, I am grateful for life and this moment. The greatest lessons are the ones we learn when we fail and looking back I am happy because I wouldn’t be the person I am without the struggles I have been through. We have been brought up in a society that doesn’t encourage vulnerability and I want to encourage my kids and everyone to embrace their emotions because they are a huge part of our lives.
Life is full of ups and downs and we must be more open to them. There is no health without mental health so ask for help because that is the beginning of recovery.”