Spotlight on depression

An emotional open discussion about depression in black communities took place at the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum on Saturday 18 August.

It focused on the definition of depression and identifying signs characterising the mental illness.

A panel of experts was on hand to share information on the topic. It included representatives of the Family and Marriage Society of South Africa (Famsa), the provincial health department and a PhD student from the USA.

Nearly all the panellists urged those in attendance to seek help by speaking out or changing their habits to try and deal with depression. This was the message to the community, especially those who find themselves affected by depression.

The discussion also sought to erase the myth that depression affects only certain races, and not black people.

Tiffany Caesar, a PhD student from Michigan State University, told the audience depression is a global phenomenon, and that black communities are inclined not to speak out on the matter.

“People deal with depression in their own way,” she said. “In my case, I enjoy writing so I would write about [what I was going through]. I didn’t know how to deal with it.”

Caesar said fepression sufferers also often sought alternative ways of dealing with their illness, including “a way out” presented by drug and alcohol abuse.

“Others become more violent, while some have sleepless nights,” she said. “Depression can be accompanied by high levels of anxiety, so one needs constructive ways to suppress it.” Caesar added this could occur through art or spiritual practices.

She further urged the community to seek help by speaking out and discussing it with family and friends, and to refrain from going through their struggles alone. “If you can’t talk to anyone there’s no way you can be helped,” Caesar insisted. “I know it is hard, but seek solutions by opening up.”

Sylvia Mzinyathi, a nurse at Ikhwezi Clinic in Nomzamo, said parents often do not know the impact speaking harshly to their children on things that bother them have. “As parents we need to learn that not everyone is the same,” she said, “even twins, and that means you have to deal with children individually.”

Mzinyathi encouraged youth to create positivity in their lives. “You can heal yourself by doing what makes you feel good,” she said. “When you face challenges in your life just know they are there to build you, not destroy you.”

Lindokuhle Tyelo, a social worker from Famsa, said symptoms of depression included sadness, loss of interest and being emotional.

Youths present also expressed themselves on the topic, some even weeping as they shared their stories. These included being shouted at by their parents, and not being given an opportunity to express themselves in their homes, as part of the strict environments in which they’re growing up.