Mental health is a real challenge to our society, especially in the Black communities globally. It is also more prevalent within the Creative Arts communities, yet support is lacking. While we all grew up knowing someone who we called mad or crazy, and we would often tease them harshly, until it was in our own family, wherein we would joke about it but rarely ever took it as seriously as we should – it has only emerged recently that society really stands up and acknowledge its culpability in making life worst for the mentally challenged.
A friend of our just recently died, he had been living on and off the streets for the past year or so. While the erratic and sometimes violently volatile episodes happened sporadically in the earlier times, we were able to help him in various ways. But he eventually returned to the rural home of his estranged father, this is when matters became worse. Last year a fellow artist took a picture of him on the streets of Durban/eThekwini, looking rather haggard, and carrying items such as plastic bags and pieces of writings including business proposals. It was a hard moment and many strangers poured their hearts out in sympathy. But real actual help was hard to come by. Some of us went out to search for him for a few hours each day and even during some nights. When one of us found him in one of the parks bordering a community arts centre we had all worked at for more than a decade, he was quite difficult to contain and he even refused to be helped. We would later find him posting ‘nonsense verse’ on social media, especially on Facebook. He had always been a very deep and cryptic Poet, but these latest words were borderline ‘freaky’, and very pessimistic. I would then inbox him assuming he is at some internet cafe’, but he would often not respond. The only time he responded he just insulted me and my brother Khaya but later apologized and commended me for starting a family. He seemed to be holding some grudges, but then he would also sound very conciliatory.
The moral of the story is that much of the depression associated with mental illness is not always due to schizophrenia, bipolar disease and any psychosomatic disease, but it is largely due to the state of our broken society. The capitalist system that places profits before Nature ( people, water, plants, the atmosphere etc) is really debilitating on a personal as well as community levels.
The stigma must end but it will not change significantly until humanity configures its ways of co-existence. Many indigenous communities in the so called Third-World had various effective ways to deal with outliers and those who were different in many ways, but the world we live in now is changing too rapidly and materialism seems to erode our core values even further.
I am sharing this post from a Black website to highlight the fact that many celebrities, who are actually our sisters and brothers anyway despite their extra-ordinary talents, also suffer from the same social ills, in spite of money and access to help. What should be transformed is humanity’s way of being.