ARCHIVES: OPINIONISTA: South Africa is in a mental health crisis, and we all need to see ourselves in Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka
Mental health is frequently undermined and reduced to little more than a Twitter trend, that crops up periodically if a celebrity commits suicide or when another woman is gruesomely murdered by their partner or family member. We need to do better. Second to land and finances, mental health should be one of the key reparations for black South Africans.
Another school probably would have expelled me, butAndrews University School of Architecturewas willing to work with me in my distress. I still remembered the struggles I faced in building a home for a family in South Africa: fighting with municipal corruption and fundraising with white groups that racially profiled me. In the middle of all that stress, my grandmother passed away. She was the last pawn standing that had authority over my life, that raised me, and that I loved.
The year before, I had just graduated with my bachelor’s, and my dad passed away. Four years before that, I was excited to go to study overseas, and my mom passed away. The more I tried to make a difference in other people’s lives, the more I lost the people who made a difference in
mylife. I began to hate architecture because it represented a level of success that I associated with loss. The dissonant stress of loss and success meant I could not concentrate anywhere except the soccer field. I was, so to speak, trying to win a chess game without the pawns I needed to win. headtopics.com
To me, my lost family members represented the value of the paper currency. They were the gold that I lost — I had the paper, but it was worthless without the gold to back it. To prevent myself from falling deeper into depression, I asked one of my friends at Andrews about getting me a job as the school mascot because that best represented how I felt. As the mascot, I went out in public dancing and celebrating. Inside I was dying. Being “Andy” helped me process what I was going through by living out how I felt versus how the world saw me.
That’s why it hurts me so much to see the criticism and the hate that was spewed towards Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles when they dropped out of the French Open and the Olympics. Why do we judge and critique them for something they cannot control? When we expect people to perform at the best level for our entertainment, even as they struggle with mental health, we blame them for all the tragedies that have led them to this point.
In my case, other people’s lack of empathy led me to a dark place I didn’t choose. I wanted to be an architect but not in the dark place I ended up. I see this in criticism of Osaka and Biles, that they chose an athletic career so they have to deal with the consequences. People blame the mental health problems on the career choice instead of seeing the mental health problems for what they are: the involuntary invisible ankle injury that most of us go through in this game of life.
Depending on your access to support, history of discrimination and family background, that injury either propels you to the next phase of life or it is a career-ending nightmare and everything in between. And other people heavily contribute to which direction we take. headtopics.com
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