Conversations with the Youth: Healing South Africa

By Phindi Maduna

Brand South Africa always strives to inspire and empower the country’s citizens to contribute to positive change in the world. South African youth are an important driver of social, economic and political transformation in the world, in spite of the many socio-economic and environmental obstacles that they face. These challenges, be it unemployment, access to education, gender based violence, poverty, educational inequality or drug abuse, contribute to the state of their mental health. It is therefore, essential that youth are given opportunities to engage with professionals, community leaders and thought leaders, among others, to gain an understanding of what mental health is and ways to manage it.

On 30 June 2020, Brand South Africa partnered with Masikhule Innovations, a social justice organisation that focuses on promoting dignity and a better quality of life for people, to present a Virtual Dialogue for Healing.

Founder of Masikhule Innovations and Psychologist Mthetho Tshemese, widely recognised as “The Village Shrink”, led the two hour long virtual discussion with fellow psychologists, thought leaders and youth activists to unpack the effects of anxiety, depression and stress on the mental well-being of the youth, taking into consideration the uncertainty and isolation brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. This means that a healthy state of mind is essential for an individual to be an active citizen.

However, in order for an individual to develop and maintain a healthy state of mental well-being, s/he must be in an environment that is conducive to such. Many of South Africa’s youth are not. This can be largely attributed to the country’s oppressive and violent history.

The transmission of intergenerational trauma is one of the biggest causes of many of South Africa’s societal struggles. South Africa is founded on violence, pain and disgrace and this will continue to be passed down until it is addressed. Access to mental health services can go a long way in tackling these challenges so that these traumas are addressed.

However, access to mental health services is limited in the country and many who live in townships and villages often have no access to these services at all. This often results in the use of unhealthy and dangerous coping mechanisms.

Through the dialogue, Brand South Africa welcomed the opportunity to encourage young people to be resilient in the midst of life challenges and to make positive contribution in their respective communities much like Masikhule Innovations and many others are.