Shadows Over Sunshine

Shadows Over Sunshine

by Henry Ntege

In April 2019, my life veered down a path I hadn't anticipated. I was living in a modest part of Nairobi, Kenya, when I secured a job as a content moderator for a major social media platform through an outsourcing firm called Sama Kenya Limited. The role wasn’t just a steady source of income; it was a window into the vast digital world, which thrilled me as someone deeply interested in technology.

I embraced my new responsibilities with vigor, tasked with filtering out harmful content to ensure a safe user experience. I understood the importance of my work and took pride in my contribution to the safety of the digital community. However, the daily exposure to distressing images and hateful comments began to take a toll on me as time went on.

By 2022, the energetic and hopeful person I once was had faded away. My smiles became infrequent, and laughter seldom escaped my lips. Sleep evaded me, and when it did come, it was often disrupted by nightmares. My friends and family noticed these changes but believed they were just the byproducts of job stress, not realizing the deep-seated impact it was having on me.

March 2023 marked a significant downturn in my life. I was among several employees declared redundant as the company sought to streamline operations. Suddenly, the job that had given me purpose and a means to support myself was gone. Now, I was left to contend with both the psychological scars of my work and the stark reality of unemployment.

The loss of my job finally pushed me to seek professional help. I had been ignoring the signs of my deteriorating mental health, hoping they would vanish once I found new work. Instead, they intensified. Acknowledging the severity of my condition, I visited a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with severe psychiatric co-morbidities: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

While the diagnosis provided some relief by naming my suffering, it also underscored the urgent need for specialized and ongoing treatment—a need I could scarcely afford without financial stability. In this desperate time, a flicker of hope appeared. My psychiatrist referred me to local NGOs that supported individuals dealing with workplace-induced mental health issues. I reached out and connected with a counsellor and a support group. This group, which met weekly, included people who had faced or were facing similar challenges. They offered a sense of understanding and camaraderie that I sorely missed.

Encouraged by this new support network, I began to document my journey and the mental health impacts of my former role in a personal blog. The stories I shared struck a chord with many around the world, shedding light on the psychological toll of content moderation. My insights prompted discussions among the public, policymakers, and mental health advocates about the ethical responsibilities of outsourcing companies and the protective measures they owed to employees like me.

Blogging and advocacy transformed my sense of purpose. I championed workplace mental health, pushing for regulations and support systems for content moderators. My efforts attracted media attention, sparking debates that reached beyond my immediate community.

Though financial uncertainty still looms large in my daily life, my advocacy has brought me a measure of peace. I chose to share my story with ADAA to highlight the struggles of those who face mental health challenges without access to professional treatment due to financial constraints. Being currently unemployed, I understand how difficult it is to seek help when resources are limited. I hope my story can shed light on these issues and inspire changes that make mental health support more accessible to everyone. 

I know the road to recovery is long and fraught with challenges, but with the support of my community and the solidarity of those who share my struggle, I am committed to changing the narrative. I am no longer alone, and together, we are stepping out of the shadows to fight the unseen battles.

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