In today’s episode of the SHE Word, we’re tackling the topic of mental health. For this important conversation, Trudy Kerry is joined by Roberta Farrugia Debono, Yazmin de Giorgio, and Samira Axiak.


Today’s SHE Word episode discusses a very important issue in today’s society. Trudy, together with Roberta Farrugia Debono, Yazmin de Giorgio and Samira Axiak discuss the topic of mental health in the context of every single woman on this planet. Roberta is a clinical psychologist by profession and also a lecturer specialising in mental health issues. Yazmin is the founder of Sanya, an eco and wellness spa, designed for people to experience better well-being. She is also an advocate for mental health, just like Samira. Samira is an activist who regularly speaks out across her platform to so many people, describing her own struggles and mental health experiences.

Trudy explains that mental health issues have been on the rise, especially because of the pandemic. However, the pandemic also gave us an opportunity to talk more about our issues and mental health. Statistics show that 1 in 5 women experience a common mental health disorder. 25.7% of women also consider or are involved in self-harm. These statistics are higher for women than for men.

Trudy turns to Roberta, a professional in the field, to ask if she agrees with these statistics.

‘It is right but with a disclaimer. Through research, it has been shown that females are more at risk of mental health disorders, both biologically and socially. However, we also know that men do not always report mental health disorders. One could say that those percentages could mean that there are other cases for men because they do not open up. However, lately, I have seen more men accessing psychological services’.

Yazmin debunks the idea that mental health should be called a disorder. She raises the fact that anxiety and depression are natural reactions to how we frame struggles.

‘In my experience’, claims Roberta, ‘what would make it a disorder vs something that you are passing through, is if it is affecting the way your live your life. We all go through difficult times in our life but if that experience becomes too much to handle, then I would say that that person needs to reach out and get access to the right treatment.’

‘We have become so disconnected as a society. We move away from living with extended families to being isolated and living alone. The statistics of loneliness are incredible’, claims Yazmin.

Samira agrees that it is very difficult to make friends nowadays and to find people who are genuine and can be trusted. ‘I’ve met a lot of people in my line of work, but I wouldn’t call them friends. A text message is not a friend. It is not someone who shows up at your doorstep every time you need them’.

Roberta agrees with Samira. ‘I believe it is all about connection. We need to teach kids how to connect. It is not always about communication but connection. These are not things that you learn at school. These are things that you learn at home and the fact that we are neglecting basic things, like eating together as a family or watching movies together, is worrying me’.

So, if the world is getting more challenging, what on earth are we going to do? This is the burning question that Trudy asks next.

‘There is a positive parenting program that has launched recently’, claims Roberta. ‘It teaches parents how to parent in a positive way and how to deal with a tantrum. In society, there are things that are helping. We need to also stress that therapy is needed and that it helps’.

Samira opens up about a very bad experience with a psychotherapist when she was thirteen years old which made it very hard for her to seek therapy again. However, three weeks ago she finally made the decision to seek help. ‘I cancelled my appointment three times, but I did go in the end. It’s so liberating, and I walk out like I’m walking on clouds. It’s so healthy to go to therapy and I feel that it’s finally being normalised too, especially in my generation’.

Finding the right therapist is extremely important. You need to find someone who you can click with. In fact, Roberta claims that research shows that it’s the connection that the therapist is able to build with the client that makes therapy successful.

Yazmin and Roberta both stress that the concept of therapy needs to be expanded. It could be a therapy session for some, mindfulness exercises for others, or breathwork for other people. It’s all about finding the space in which you get to learn about yourself better.

Samira opens up about a very personal experience in her life. ‘When I was around 13 or 14 years old, I was going through a really bad depression, and I spent 6 months harming myself. I opened up to a close person in my life and she did the wisest thing and called my mum. My mum panicked. After my last suicide attempt, things got serious really quickly, because I didn’t have time to cope. It was in June and a few months later, my sister was diagnosed with an illness, and a few months after, I almost lost my mum in the most terrible way. It took me a long time for me to realise that I was a victim as well. I don’t remember most of these things because that’s what happens with trauma – the brain cancels out a lot of things’.

Yazmin shares some interesting research about trauma. ‘Trauma doesn’t have to be a war, sexual or physical abuse. We all face trauma when our needs are not met and when we don’t have a confidant who we can seek out to. Many children do not reach out. It impacts their ability to be resilient and happy. We need to relax the conversation around trauma. It is not only when you receive harm’.

Trudy closes off the conversation by asking all three guests to give some advice to their listeners.

‘Our mantra at Sanya is ‘Go Within’’, claims Yazmin. ‘Very often, our anxiety and depression are ways how we cope with pain. Let’s seek to understand these coping mechanisms to figure out which are helpful and which ones we can stray away from and choose a different option’.

Samira honestly replies that she doesn’t have a lot of advice to give since she just started therapy herself. ‘Therapy is the best thing you can do. I’m on the way to becoming a better person and I like who I’m becoming. I want to build a healthy family’.

Roberta’s last message is that, as women, we are more able to connect to people. ‘We are more social people – at least, most of us are. That is our secret weapon for safeguarding our mental health. Connection is our secret weapon to mental health, and we need to cultivate it’.

Thank you, ladies, for sharing and for dropping some really important thoughts around this table.