Depressed? Don't read Kombuis's blog

By Melanie Peters Time of article published Sep 6, 2008

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Afrikaans singer and writer Koos Kombuis has come under fire for criticising people with bipolar disorder, saying he did not think "shrinks" knew what they were doing and he was gatvol with people suffering from the condition.

He says he has had enough of people who are self-seeking and have to be handled with kid gloves.

His blog on the website Litnet caused a stir, and Kombuis was asked to retract it after complaints.

One of his friends, Johannes Kerkorrel, hanged himself because of depression.

Kombuis is known as a maverick Afrikaans musician who has penned 10 books. He and Kerkorrel both rebelled against apartheid.

Litnet is a leading South African multicultural online journal that often hosts the blogs of high- profile people in the Afrikaans community.

In his blog, Kombuis writes: "I am gatvol of people with bipolar. I do not think shrinks know what they are doing when they diagnose and give people a prescription. I've had enough of self seekers who need to be handled with kid gloves because they have 'bipolar' or a borderline personality."

He says all they need is a long holiday on a Boland farm to rise early in the morning, take long barefoot walks in the dirt and learn to milk cows.

"There were fewer bipolar people in my youth because of conscription. The army taught us to make our own beds. There was no time for such shit."

He also writes that being an alcoholic is no excuse to drive drunk; to be a psychopath isn't a mitigating circumstance to commit murder; to be a paedophile isn't a good enough reason to rape a child; and likewise, bipolar isn't an excuse to call everyone at 3am to ask for a lift to a Buddhist retreat to watch the sun rise.

"Our society takes all sorts of peculiar habits and classifies them as chemical defects. Instead of giving these stupid people complicated names, we should stop demonising those who are merely interesting variations of the norm, like gays."

One complainant, Cape Town forensic medicine professor Deon Knobel, says the statements are "unacceptable and close to slanderous and hate speech".

He adds that the blog could cause further stigma for people with mental illness.

On Friday, a contrite Kombuis apologised unconditionally "for the tactless way I breached the subject. I published my apology this morning".

But the issue of bipolarity was still a problem for him. Before bipolarity became "fashionable", it was relatively rare. Now, there was an epidemic.

Many of his friends have been diagnosed with it. He was diagnosed as a "manic depressive" himself, and took Lithium for a long time.

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