An estimated 23 suicides take place in SA daily and 9% of all deaths among youngsters are due to suicide, according to the South African Depression & Anxiety Group.
While the youth of today have certain rights, choices and privileges which the youth of 1976 did not have, there are various struggles that young people continue to face daily. Mental wellness is one of them.
For 27-year-old Raymond “MonD” Motadi, navigating the journey of mental wellness has required the prioritisation of self-care and constantly checking in on oneself.
“I was hospitalised and diagnosed with bipolar [disorder] and psychosis, which required me to be on antidepressants. I’ve been in therapy for six months, which has truly been empowering,” he said.
The Atteridgeville-based screenwriter, presenter, executive producer and queer activist took his diagnosis as a wake-up call to be more aware and mindful of his wellbeing. He is now more considerate of how he spends his time, ensuring that his passions do not lead him into a pit of anxiety, burnout and feeling overwhelmed.
“I have invested in myself by taking self-care very seriously because I’m in an industry that requires a lot of energy. It’s important that I take time to myself.”
In addressing the current state of youth mental wellness, Motadi believes that a small, yet necessary step to take would be to hear, understand and value the youth. He also encouraged his peers to constantly be in touch with self and to value themselves each day.
“As a young black and queer person, people try to erase me on a daily basis, so I live my life knowing that some people will choose not to see me. It’s important that I see myself. We just celebrated Youth Day and I asked myself what that means for me. I truly feel like the people in power are just spitting in the faces of those who died in 1976. It’s time the government started seeing us by investing in us as the youth”.
As a society battling unemployment, poverty, gender-based violence and various other ills, some of these can indeed play a part in contributing towards mental health challenges.
According to Kgaogelo Photoane, founder of Not Alone SA, the current state of the youth’s mental wellness can be attributed to a number of different factors.
“What people don’t realise is that mental health issues can also be biological. Other factors can also be societal and economic. A lot of young people are not OK and there aren’t enough safe spaces to talk and be honest. People don’t feel heard and understood,” she said.
Not Alone SA is a registered non-profit organisation that is focused on mental health advocacy and awareness. It also seeks to destigmatise mental health disorders, while serving as a safe space for individuals on their journey of mental health.
The organisation’s founder also urged young people to be more careful of their social media usage as it is a tool that can be a blessing and a curse.
“Social media creates a sense of comparison and not being good enough. People are consuming lifestyles that aren’t real and comparing themselves to that. This makes them feel like they’re not living a ‘soft life’ and it stops them from enjoying their journeys and where they are.
“If used properly, social media can be of great help in terms of mental health awareness. Follow pages that feed you emotionally and give you good thoughts.”
Ultimately, Photoane believes it is vital for young people to take the necessary measures to nurture their mental wellness as it has an effect on overall wellness.
“Your brain is basically the control centre of your entire body and your entire system. If you’re not OK mentally, your entire system can break down. Mental wellbeing is literally the cornerstone of good health. If you’re not mentally healthy, are you really healthy?”
Tips to nurture your mental wellness
Our mental wellness is an important part of our overall health. As such, it is important that we nurture it as often as is necessary. These are a few tips from Not Alone SA on the steps you can take towards nurturing your mental wellness.
- Don’t bottle it in
Being able to express what you are going through is very helpful. Use your journal as a way of connecting with self and taking inventory of your thoughts and emotions. Speak to someone you can trust and normalise therapy.
Whether it’s taking a walk, going to the gym or dancing like nobody is watching, a more active you will result in a happier and lighter you.
- Be intentional about self-care
Self-care is important and means different things to different people. Listen to the kind of care that your body and soul require at any given moment. Sometimes it is as simple as running yourself a bubble bath.
- Create healthy boundaries
Be OK with saying ‘no’ as agreeing to everything may lead to burnout and give rise to feelings of resentment towards the people in your life. Creating healthy boundaries goes a long way in protecting your relationships, your mental and overall wellness.
- Be mindful and present
Being mindful brings a sense of calm and prevents us from stressing about the past or future. Look into meditation apps and videos that can help you get started on your journey of mindfulness.