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Mental Health Conversations …National Airline: The loss of sense of belonging as a collective

2021-02-19  Staff Reporter

Mental Health Conversations …National Airline: The loss of sense of belonging as a collective
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Being a Namibian national is a birthright people earn when born in this country. Not excluding individuals who earn their status through other criteria. However, as a whole, we are a collective. Therefore, what Namibia provides to its citizens in terms of a sense of belonging, spans across the board, whether it’s earned through birthright or as a status. The very essence of our identity as citizens of this country is embedded in being a Namibian. Collectively we participate in civic engagements such as voting but we also take pride in what we perceive as our national treasures, including the Namibian flag. Attached to the national airline known as Air Namibia, is the national flag that has a collective representation for nationals of this country. The potential of losing what has been experienced, known and perceived as a national treasure is likely to prompt fear, anxiety, stress, sadness, despair, and unrest in anyone who is patriotic and is a Namibian. 

As a result, the current despondence that is expressed and felt by the public on social media in relation to the national airline’s position is perhaps driven from a place of nationalism – the identification with one’s nation and support for its interest. Currently, many Namibians may feel that their group identity is threatened but also fearful of losing the meaning attached to the national flag on international terrains, a position which the airline has appropriated for the country and its nationals, and is consequently carrying it. Hence, for many, the loss of the national airline could be interpreted not only as a loss of representation of the flag internationally but also our pride as a country. 

Social psychology, through the lens of social identity theory, explains identity as a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership. In this particular instance, Namibians are a group. Additionally, the group (Namibians) is an important source of pride and self-esteem and gives us a sense of social identity – a sense of belonging to the social world. Therefore, it would make sense that one’s group identity may be threatened if the airline is to be liquidated. 

Sense of belonging from a psychological perspective is basically the need to be accepted as a member or to be part of a group. It’s a need for human connection to others, a church group or family, culture, workplace or citizenship. It’s a basic human need just like we need food and shelter. When our sense of belonging is threatened or removed there are feelings of loneliness, despair, destitute which could inevitably translate into mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. 

Crucial to note is that when we as human beings experience loss, any type of loss, whether death, relationships or job, our limbic system which is the nerves and networks in the brain as well as our pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for finding meaning, judgment and planning, is affected. As a result, our levels of concentration, memory and the ability to regulate our emotions will be compromised. Even the most objective reasons given to justify a loss at the time will not be acceptable in the moment of grief nor will the loss be conceptualized in a way that it carries meaning because of the emotions that engulf us during a period of loss. The only way to deal with loss is to afford ourselves time, opportunity and willingness to grief by processing our emotions individually and as a collective to get to a place of acceptance, which will eventually lead to healing. In the same breath, it’s imperative that we are sensitive and patient with each other’s emotions and position in how we experience loss, as grief present itself in various stages, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Also to be cognizant that these stages are unique to each individual and therefore, we cannot put a time-frame on how long one should grief for their loss as we experience losses differently.

Being aware of the implications of our decisions and actions on others is pivotal in a world of impermanence and uncertainty. Let’s humanize decisions that affect others.

Justine /Oaes 
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2021-02-19  Staff Reporter

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