Many people become instant experts on the matter of suicide, like we have the slightest clue of what it feels like to suffer from any form of mental illness. Picture: StockSnap
‘The world out there is still the same. The triggers of your depression will still be there. You are the one that has changed. You are a different person. So my advice is, create your own world in the very world that you are going back to. Get enough rest and be very kind to yourself,” said Sesi Lebo, my psychologist as she gave me the green light to come back to this cruel world, after being in a psychiatric hospital for two weeks.

I call it a cruel world because many of us have no clue what depression is about. Many people become instant experts on the matter of suicide, like we have the slightest clue of what it feels like to suffer from any form of mental illness, especially depression, the most common factor that leads to 90% of suicidal deaths globally, according to the World Health Organisation.

It has been three months since I was discharged from a psychiatric hospital. I was diagnosed with a severe depressive episode without psychotic symptoms, triggered by post-traumatic stress disorder.

I personally didn’t know that I was battling with depression until my psychologist came to that well-informed decision.

In hindsight, I realise that I will forever be indebted to my girlfriend, Puseletso, who booked an appointment for me with the amazing psychologist, Sesi Lebo.

Her insisting that I get professional help didn’t send any alarms because I had just survived a horrific car accident.

She either suspected or knew that I was battling some mental demons. After all, she is a final-year psychology student.

The psychologist suggested that I got admitted, and I wanted to refuse. I feared being stigmatised. Nevertheless, I had comfort in knowing that I have a partner who has a better understanding of these issues. I called her just after I left the consultation room. I said to her: “Sesi Lebo (the psychologist) says she wants to admit me right away.”

Her response was: “How many days?”

I was startled. I said to her: “Wait, you are not even surprised that she wants to admit me? Did you plan this?”

I really didn’t want people to know that I was diagnosed with depression. I was up for a few chit-chats in her office for an hour or so because it felt “safe” and private. But to tell me about admission to hospital felt like she was breaking the doctor-patient confidentiality clause. I was scared of being seen by other people.

I was even starting to question the authenticity of the psychologist’s examination report. All these were signs of shame, and the fear of being stigmatised.

I was just scared of being labelled segafi (a crazy person) by people around me. However, that never stopped me from sharing my story. I believe that we undermine the seriousness of depression. We don’t inform or educate people enough about the challenges of mental illness.

I was teased by friends when I did or said something normally abnormal. They would say: “With the things you are saying or doing, did you take your medication?”

I was very quick to rebuke them. I couldn’t allow them to make fun of me.

I made a vow that I would continue to share my story, especially to those who care to listen, because part of breaking the silence about this monster that is taking lives, is sharing our stories of how we are dealing with it, coping with it, healing from it and surviving it.

The truth is, this world will always be the same if we don’t do anything about it. As I continue to take my medication, I share my story with the hope that you’re not suffering in silence, because the results of depression are fatal.

Not everybody has a Puseletso in their lives, who will make it their business, strategically so, to aid someone like me, but we can all call 0800121314, the helpline for the SA Depression and Anxiety Group. Seek help! Speak out! Your mental health matters.

* Kabelo Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement (YMM) and an Obama Foundation Africa Leader 2018. Email: [email protected]; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala