The ages of 16-35 remain the most vulnerable in society living below the poverty line with little access to resources including education and jobs.
One of the biggest challenges we are facing as young people today is depression, which is a medical problem, but it is not taken seriously in our communities.
Can we get this right? Depression is more than just sadness, it is a serious condition which has an impact on both physical and mental health.
It is not necessarily brought on by any certain event or distressing circumstances. Rather it manifests without any determinable trigger.
Did you know that 1 in 10 teenage deaths in South Africa are due to suicide? And 20% of high school learners suffering from depression have attempted suicide? These are the painful statistics and the sad reality we live in.
I have found out that most people in our black communities, depression is regarded as “white” people’s depression. Depression does not have colour. Misunderstanding, ignorance and lack of education are at the root of stigmatization.
These factors have inflicted immense suffering to those affected in our communities, young people have taken their own lives, believing this is their only way out. It is a tragic outcome where they are afraid to ask for help, fearing they would be perceived as weak.
Depression has many triggers. At times, it’s the situation at home, work, school or in one’s love life. A depressed person can put a smile and a brave face if they want to be perceived as having a strong character. However, some start drinking too much or using drugs to ease the pain, and some withdraw from the outside world. They may lock themselves in their houses, wanting to be alone. Some resort to self-harm. And as mentioned earlier, depression leads to suicide, which may be stigmatized – an act described as selfish, rather than its root cause being examined.
Just like any illness, depression can be treated to be it through medication, therapy or lifestyle change.
So, to the South African youth of today, let us not be defeated by mental illness, go out and seek help. There are lots of non-profit organisation who offer free support programmes. Reach out, don’t suffer in silence