Mental health has become a large part of the self-care-driven collective consciousness of the Next Gen. Despite this, South Africa is experiencing rising suicide rates, with The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) reporting that there are ’23 completed suicides in South Africa every day, and a further 460 attempted suicides every 24 hours’.

Now that we are more aware, what comes next? A vital step is breaking the taboo around speaking about what goes on beyond the moments of curated perfection that flood our feeds. Talking openly with those close to us about our struggles and the issues we are working through can lessen the feeling of being alone, which is one of the hardest things about mental illness. But you are not alone, as proven by these celebs, who have spoken bravely about their battles with less-than-Insta-friendly, real-life issues.

Sade Giliberti: isolating yourself won’t help

The former YoTV and So You Think You Can Dance presenter opened up on the Let’s Talk portal about having suicidal thoughts from the age of seven years old. The online platform aims to break the stigma around mental-health illnesses and make support and treatment more accessible. ‘I’m angry, I’m heartbroken and I feel abandoned. I start drinking. I start cutting myself more. I start meddling with pills…’ Sade wrote for Let’s Talk. ‘I’m not trying to kill myself, I just don’t want to be present in my reality more… I wake up in hospital with a psychologist standing over me. It’s official, I’m being diagnosed with depression and anxiety and I’m put on all sorts of pills.’

 

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‘[I] know that one can’t be happy every single day. It takes a lot for a depressed person to get out of bed in the morning and show up. The fact that you’re showing up, is massive,’ she says now, after years of therapy. ‘Allow the bad days to happen, don’t fight it. But most importantly understand your depression, and speak out. Being silent [and isolating] yourself is never the way to deal with anything.’

Sade came fourth in M-Net’s Survivor South Africa: Santa Carolina and donated her R125 000 winnings to the Childline Charity. Sade is also an Ambassador for Mental Health in South Africa for SADAG.

Trevor Noah: depression is not just about feeling sad

Last year, local comedian and host of The Daily Show Trevor Noah revealed the moment he realised he’d been struggling with depression. While speaking at the Just for Laughs Comedy festival in Montreal, Trevor said that fellow comedian Jim Carrey’s openness about dealing with mental illness is what helped him make sense of his own experiences. ‘Jim Carrey was one of the first comedians that described the beast that many of us face in this room, and that’s depression,’ he said in his speech while collecting the Comedy Person of the Year award. ‘I didn’t know what that thing was. I just thought I liked sleeping for weeks on end sometimes, and then I read [Jim Carrey’s] story and I was like, “Oh s**t, that’s what’s going on.” And I thank you because, you know, I found a way to fight it.’

Speaking further on the subject with DJ Fresh on the Metro FM morning show, Trevor elaborated on the misconceptions surrounding depression. ‘When they say you suffer from depression, people think you’re saying you’re just sad all the time. You’re not sad. You know what depression is? Essentially, it will be a chemical thing in your brain where you perceive what is happening to you now to be happening to you forever. So if you’re having a bad day now or you’re having a bad moment, in your mind you go, “it’s forever”.’

‘Funnyily enough, one of the best things that helps depression is work,’ he said, ‘and socialising with other people and connecting.’

Bonnie Mbuli speaks openly about depression

In August this year, actress, talk-show host and Cape Talk radio host Bonnie Mbuli announced that she would be launching an IGTV series called #letstalkaboutit. Bonnie has never shied away from open discussion on depression, having detailed her own experiences in her memoir, Eyebags & Dimples. In the book, she opens up about how being diagnosed with clinical depression helped her address the symptoms she had been dealing with her whole life.

 

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‘I didn’t want to take meds in the beginning – I fought it,’ Bonnie said in her memoir. ‘I didn’t want to constantly have to confirm every morning that I wasn’t perfect. I didn’t want to keep reminding myself that I had flaws.’ The aim behind #letstalkaboutit is to ‘make everyone conscious of the fact that help is available, [they] are not alone, and that [they] can get through this.’

Suicide Prevention

As SADAG puts it, not all people who have depression are suicidal, but most people (60%) who commit suicide have depression.

Here are their tips:

‘While some suicides may occur without any outward warning, most do not,’ SADAG reports. ‘The most effective way to prevent suicide is to learn to recognise the signs of someone at risk, take these signs seriously and know how to respond to them.’

  • 20 to 50% of people who die by suicide have previously attempted it.
  • Don’t think that talking about suicide means that the person is not ‘serious’. This is a very problematic misconception. People who commit suicide successfully often speak about it directly or indirectly.
  • One warning sign is if the person withdraws from social groups and activities that they usually enjoy.
  • Take all suicide signs, threats and attempts seriously.

Be willing to listen to and assist by asking them what is wrong and ‘don’t be afraid to ask whether he/she is considering suicide’. Arguing with someone not to commit suicide or saying things like ‘You have so much to live for’ or ‘Suicide will hurt your family’ is not constructive. Simply let the person know that you care and help them to understand that they are not alone, that suicidal feelings are temporary, that depression can be treated and that problems can be solved.’

For advice, contact:

0800 567 567

This is the SADAG Suicide Helpline. It’s open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm and offers free telephonic counselling, information, referrals and crisis intervention. Visit www.sadag.org for more information on Depression and Suicide Prevention.