Jane Folodi writes…

“Black don’t crack…

Pull yourself together.

In black communities no one suffers from mental health problems or at least that is what we are taught to believe. If you have mental health issues such as PTSD, bipolar disorder or depression, the answer is simple: “Either you are bewitched or seeking for attention, which your family won’t have time to entertain,” says Daluxolo Xusha (24).

No one takes you seriously, if you have ‘white people’ problems. If you have depression, you will be regarded as an introvert, added Xusha.

Yep, this is black reality…

Did you forget black child?

Black don’t crack or should I take you to the nearest Sangoma to break the spell?

“Everything that affects white people and maybe a few wealthy blacks, is a ‘white people’ problem,” says Ziyanda Mgwili (26).

“Finding it difficult to decide whether to have caviar or oysters, to complaining about exhaustion from a French class at Alliance Francaise. I consider these ‘white people’ problems because majority of us black people do not have the privilege to choose what we are going to eat, wear, or drive. We have to take what is on the table and when we finally make it, we have black tax.” added Mgwili.

We always hope that one day our pain will be loud enough. But, where do I even begin to explain this as a black womxn?

“Mosadi otshwara thipa ka fa bogaleng,” roughly translates that a woman holds a knife on the sharp end. This is what my grandmother continuously told me before she put me to sleep. I always looked up to this strong, wrinkled, single black goddess that managed to raise eight children by herself and wondered where she got the strength from. I now know that she got her strength from holding the knife on the sharp side.

You ask black people why they wear a mask?

“Communication has never been that important in black families because we were never taught to speak. Simply to listen, obey and do. We only deal with wounds we can physically see. Unfortunately ‘curing’ depression is also a privilege we can barely afford,” says Mgwili.

“Mental health is still a taboo topic in black families. We associate it with insanity, people that are harmful to themselves and those around them. We call people suffering from mental illness, the “black sheep” in the family. We shame them and maintain distance. And with every negative remark that we make, we slow the healing process for the person.”

“Mental problems aren’t just ‘White People’ problems. The term was just made up by black communities because white people are more vocal and open about these problems,” said Xusha.

What Is Mental Illness?

Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.

Mental Health involves effective functioning in daily activities resulting in productive activities (work, school, caregiving), healthy relationships, ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity. Mental illness refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders — health conditions involving significant changes in thinking, emotion and/or behavior, distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.

How do we deal with this?

“The onus is on each individual to recognize and accept their own illnesses first. We need to open lines of communication with our families, friends, and colleagues. Involve ourselves in the lives of our children. From asking about their day at school to attending important meetings. We need access to information about the existence of mental illness with solutions as to how we could recognize early stages and how to get help and an increase in public awareness of mental illness.” says Mgwili.”

‘Educate, Educate, Educate,” says Xusha. When we have these disorders our communities assume that we need to be left alone and we will be well over time on ourselves. Mental health illnesses are not ‘white people’ problems. Let us educate our parents about these disorders.”


PTSD- Post-traumatic stress disorder.

Depression- A mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.

Bipolar disorder- A disorder associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs.

The information and views set out in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of TYI.

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