Zanele Hlatshwayo is on a mission to keep the conversation around mental illness and suicide going strong. Pic: Supplied

When Zanele Hlatshwayo’s father took his own like, it took her eight years to open up about it, and now that she has, she plans to keep the conversation around mental illness going.

The Soweto resident said she had an epiphany this year, not only did she confront her feelings over her father’s death, but she has now started a movement to raise awareness around depression and suicide.

“My father passed away in 2010. Initially it was embarrassing to know that my father had committed suicide because there was so much stigma around depression and mental illness… that men are not supposed to be weak and if men suffer from depression it’s a sign of being weak. So for the longest time I actually kept quiet about it and I didn’t speak about it.”

But all this changed when she started her Rise Stories Campaign. It actually began with her #Rise18 Challenge to complete 18 marathons by July 27, which she achieved.

But this spurred her on to keep the discussion and healing process going. “I’m not the only one who has had a loved one affected by depression and suicide. So I started a YOUTube channel which is called “Rise Stories”, where I’ve recorded people telling their stories about depression and suicide and how they’ve survived.

“The main purpose of these stories is to bring about hope and reflect on the fact that in as much as one might be going through some form of mental illness, it is possible to live a positive life.”

WATCH: Listen to more of Zanele’s journey against depression and suicide, as well as other stories, here:

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