The death of former UCT health sciences dean and cardiologist Professor Bongani Mayosi has sparked a conversation about mental health throughout this week after his family revealed that he died by suicide and that he struggled with depression. Amid the condolences, and admiration of his excellence and remarkable character, people who see a bit of the much-loved Prof Mayosi in themselves spoke up too.
I was sad when I heard about Prof Mayosi, but now I am heartbroken. Shattered to think how he must have felt. All the respect in the world to his family for the announcement that he took his own life. I use medication for anxiety and depression. I am a surgeon.
— jennifer downs (@jensdowns) July 28, 2018
Prof Bongani Mayosi’s death makes me think of professions that push high functioning depressive personalities. They thrive on your mental illness because you function “better” – you sleep less, therefore work longer hours. We’re good for the bottom line.
— Mathoko 🌈🌈🌈 (@MaThoko_Postbox) July 28, 2018
Phumie and I were talking about this yesterday. Like Prof Mayosi is all of us. He is every black overachieving kid with goals and shit who has to navigate toxic white medicine and mental health issues. Like for a lot of us this is going to make us go back to the drawing board. https://t.co/TBCXzv2Lbp
— plant mother of the highest order (@DynamicDango) July 28, 2018
One such person who has also never shied away from being vocal about mental health is actress, TV and radio host, and author of Eyebags & Dimples Bonnie Mbuli. Now in light of Prof Mayosi’s passing, the increasing rate of suicide among young people, and mental health awareness in general, Bonnie is using Instagram’s new nifty feature IGTV to talk about depression in a series titled #letstalkaboutit.
#Letstalkaboutit is what I will dub a digital extension of what the author addresses in Eyebags & Dimples – a top-selling memoir in which she documents her journey with depression and the point in her life where she discovered that her ‘darkness has a name.’
In her adulthood, Bonnie meets herself for the first time. She begins forgiving, first herself and then her mother, who she now realises wasn’t abusive because she didn’t love her but because she was also depressed.
In the first episode of her IGTV series, Bonnie states that her intention with it is to ‘make everyone conscious of the fact that help is available, [they] are not alone, and that [they] can get through this.’
‘I’m really passionate about this because I hate depression. I hate what it does to people. I hate how it steals from people and it just wreaks havoc in homes and in families,’ she adds before encouraging her audience to join in the conversation.
The second episode deals with how depression (and other mental illnesses) thrive in silence and on the ‘I don’t want to deal with all this negative talk’ trope. This is why it’s so necessary to destigmatise mental illness in the work space, the black community and even among successful high-functioning public personas who seem to have it all together.