Scheduling an interview with Abraham Kaba is nearly impossible since he uses almost every hour of his week on working as a personal trainer and studying to become a physiotherapist. The bigtime mental health enthusiast is only 28 years old but has a life experience like a 90-year-old.
“My name is Abraham Charter Kaba Konate. I am 28 years old and… uhm, how do you introduce yourself in an interview?”, Abraham asks while eating his lunch. “I was born in Denmark and moved to Ivory Coast as a toddler, where I spent my childhood with my grandparents. I moved back to Denmark at the age of 6 and ended up living with my father until the age of 12,” he continues.
Abraham lived in foster care afterwards till the age of 17. The 5 years he spent there were, according to him, the most important years of his life. “I lived in foster care for many reasons, but the main reason is my father,” he explains. “There was a lot of violence in our home, both mental and physical violence. I loved living with the other foster children and our caregivers where good people. They gave you the attention you needed, you know. However, I didn’t appreciate it back then. I was a confused kid, and my father’s negativity still affected me.” Abraham takes a second to choose his words before continuing: “I still lived with him on the weekends, and he would always tell me that my foster home only accepted me because of the money they received from the state,” Abraham continues with a lowered voice. “He would never let me embrace my happiness.” Free from his father’s negative impact, Abraham is now embracing every bit of happiness he can get.
FINDING THE LŪMEN
Growing up with a violent father and an absent mother, who left him at birth, made Abraham doubting in himself and where he belonged. It even pushed him to the point of self-destruction – a place that changed his life forever: “I got locked up, but that is not the worst thing that happened to me,” he says. “I spent some time in a psychiatric facility for almost taking my own life. I did one year and three months in prison for a harmless robbery at a gas station,” he says. He has been been through it all, and fortunately, Abraham chose to use the time in prison to read, “and damn, I read a lot!” he comments.
He started reading religious books, “as every idiot does,” he laughs. But what really changed his perspective were books about philosophy, he says. “I didn’t understand half the words in the books, so I wrote the heavy words down and looked them up. That’s how I learned to read more advanced books and actually, like really understand them,” he explains.
“If I hadn’t been taken away from my father, I would have been fucked today.”
Abraham started teaching himself about the world outside his family, outside the foster home, outside crime and time. “I always thought that me being in all this trouble was because of me and my behavior. Today I understand that I only acted that way because of my upbringing,” he says. “If I hadn’t been taken away from my father, I would have been fucked today. My foster parents were more of a family to me than my real parent, and I know that now.” After prison, Abraham kept away from all criminal activities. He even has an internship at the psychiatric facility where he was admitted. “It’s funny how life work,” he comments and smiles carefully.
REFORMING MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH
David Goldberg of the Institute of Psychiatry in London reports that the rate of depression in patients with a chronic disease is almost three times higher than usual. “Depression and chronic physical illness are in a reciprocal relationship with one another: not only do many chronic illnesses cause higher rates of depression, but depression has been shown to antedate some chronic physical illnesses.” He states that depression which occurs together with physical illness is harder to diagnose than depression occurring on its own: “Depression among those with chronic physical illnesses is likely to be missed by professionals who care for physically sick patients,” he writes.
Abraham has over 10k followers on Instagram, where he posts about both physical as well as psychological activities. His followers are mostly young people in the age of 18-30, also known as generation x and z. According to INDEPENDENT UK, these generations, especially generation z, are more likely to report mental health problems. “I know that there is a strong link between mental and physical health,” Abraham explains. “But little is known about the pathways from one to the other. This is why I work so much,” he comments. A busy schedule equals a search for answers: “The more people I meet, the more I understand how the mind works,” he continues. “They want to work out and get in shape, but that is always a challenge when their minds are caught up in anything else but their health.”
“You cannot have a healthy body, without a healthy mind.”
Today, many years after a life full of pain and traumas, Abraham concentrates on one thing and one thing only; mental and physical development. As a personal trainer, Abraham works with guiding his clients with more than just their physical development. “Some of my clients come to me to get in shape, that’s it,” he says. “They want bigger buts and arms, smaller waists and so on. It’s a shame, really. All the focus on the body doesn’t leave much space for focusing on what is happening in the mind,” Abraham continues, not impressed by the theories and methods physiotherapists nor personal trainers promote and use. “You cannot have a healthy body, without a healthy mind. There are so few professionals who work with physical health that actually take the mental state just as serious,” he comments. “if I had to give an advice for someone who struggles with finding a way out of misery, it would be to believe in yourself! Nobody else will if you don’t”.