Poor knowledge about mental health adds to stigma

Lulama Mfuniselo, centre manager of the Empilweni: Place of Healing.

Being aware of one’s mental health makes you capable of dealing with life issues thoroughly.

So says Lulama Mfuniselo, the centre manager of Empilweni: Place of Healing, a community-based mental health project in Khayelitsha, talking about mental health matters to Vukani as World Mental Health Day was marked on October 10.

Mr Mfuniselo described mental health as being able to think clearly, to do things clearly and being able to do your daily duties; being competitive in life and being able to deal with bad life situations and overcoming them with the necessary help and support.

He said if you are unable to deal with life issues and your brain is struggling to process bad life situations, it also makes you vulnerable and you could easily find yourself being hooked on drugs and alcohol.

Mr Mfuniselo said in many cases the excessive use of drugs and alcohol is one of the key contributors to mental illness as some use these substances to boost their morale and self-esteem.

Mr Mfuniselo said there was very little knowledge and awareness of mental health in the township. He said in the township once someone mentions mental health the first thing that comes to people’s mind is being labelled “crazy”.

He said there was still a stigma associated with mental health matters and a lack of knowledge plays a big part.

Mr Mfuniselo said being mentally ill could be as simple as needing to offload and perhaps looking at things from a different perspective.

He said mental health matters affect everyone.

“Losing someone close to you; loss of income – are some of the contributors that can affect your mental health.

“The environment that we raise our children in can also play a part in mental health.

“As a parent, it is critical that you create a strong bond with your child so that your child can feel free to talk you about anything. As a parent know your child. Show interest in your child’s life.

“We want to spread the message about mental illness. Mental health affects everyone and it does not discriminate,” he said.

He said being fatigued and demotivated all the time are some of the indicators that things might not be well.

Mr Mfuniselo said it is important that you have a mentor or someone that you trust to get things off your chest and do what is called emotional discharge. But he said it was also critical to visit a professional so that one could get help.

He said Empilweni provides family therapy, they have youth and parent groups and they have outreach programmes.

“The registered organisation specialises in counselling programmes (depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder) for children aged 4 to 18, and they deal extensively with young adults as well.

The organisation said studies have shown that children with mental /emotional health problems, if left untreated by a mental health professional, will likely grow up and repeat these same behaviours with their children.

Empilweni is situated on the corner of Spine and Ntlazane roads, Khayelitsha.

For more information, call 021 361 7063, 063 013 5731, WhatsApp 063 013 5731, email admin@empilweni.org or log on here.