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Creatives speak out on depression


October 10 is widely known as World Mental Health Awareness Day which takes a deeper focus on the things that cause mental health illness such as depression, thus also fostering a phenomenon wherein the month of October is dedicated to commemorating mental health.

Mental health challenges play out in a number of ways and in a number of conditions and some illnesses, common and uncommon. One of the most common conditions which depict mental health challenges is depression which has been attributed for a number of suicide instances. This has been the case in latter days in number of public figures and or people in the public’s eye.

Over the past few years it has been discovered that anxiety levels were 10 times higher and depression five times higher in people who are in the arts and creatives industry.   

Creatives, artists and entertainers are particularly not immune from mental health illnesses especially depression, as their lives are always under the spotlight, a feat which always places them under immense pressure to succeed and keep-up appearances to remain relevant in the industry they are in being music, film, photography and many others. 

Legendary rapper Refiloe Thoahlane also known by many as Chocolate Soul, took some time to discuss his experimenting of depression with Newsday Arts this week.

According to Thoahlane, 35, depression has almost always been a part of his adult life. 

“I was 18 years old when I had such terrible mood swings. I was taken to a doctor by my parents, I had an EEG scan and it was determined that I have irregular brain activity that induces depression and lack of focus,” he remembered.

“I started seeing mental health medical practitioners through out my life. I believe so far I have addressed the depression to some degree but in all honesty, I still have bouts of depression and anxiety. I take medication and am happy 75% of the time” he said.

He said people with depression need someone to give them an ear, adding that it is not easy leaving a toxic situation.

“Our depression might be caused by work, family and aspects of our lives we can’t avoid. People need people who will listen to them,” added Chocolate Soul.   

“My parents were lucky enough to have had international exposure so they knew that depression is real and helped with medication and love until I could afford medication and I could love myself. And they still love and support me,” he said.

The muso indicated that the worst time in any depressed person’s life is when they encounter suicidal thoughts, a feat which he contents he has experimented with as well at some point although he is quick to mention that he was lucky to have had a solid support system. 

For his part, professional photographer Phil vigilante, also epitomised and gave confirmation to the fact that public figures are at the risk of depression taking from his own recent experiences with depression.

“Sometimes as creatives we are under pressure to keep up with appearances and find ourselves at times surrounded by fake friends, people you cannot even say to them ‘I am drowning please help me’ because they are just there for the good times.

“I have no idea what caused my depression but I found myself diving into things I would not normally do. However, when I realised that I was no longer myself I decided to take time out and regroup and gather my strength,” Phil said. 

He said he is very lucky to have survived the dark days without any support structure and encouraged other artists and creatives to seek help when they feel overburdened in anyway.

“I strongly believe seeking professional help and swallowing our pride is one way we can help ourselves because depression or any mental health issues is not a death sentence” he said.

Meanwhile, another rapper, Jiji F real name Moji Mokotso, who has been one artist vocal on social media about his challenges battling depression, said top artists in the hip hop genre are affected badly by mental health issues such as depression due to their lifestyle. 

“When you look at the way we as hip hop artists carry ourselves, you would realise that it is not original most times. We want to live the expensive lifestyle associated with the genre, which unfortunately is expensive and fake,” said Mokotso.

Relating his experience with depression, Jiji F said he had to take a break from the music industry and move away from the public eye to work on himself.

The Animale hit-maker said that in attempt to escape from self, he resorted to substance abuse until he realised that he was making things worse and made a conscious decision to focus on rehabilitating himself. 

“I started smoking stuff, not just cigarettes or weed, I got into heavy stuff as a way to escape my thoughts but it was not working so I disappeared from the eyes of the people and started a life in the outskirts of Maseru. 

“While I was staying in my shack, away from everyone including my family, what was helping me was a book I started reading called ‘The Power of Now’. I am not much of a reader but this book about how to overcome self-doubt and pressure while discovering our true being came in very handy in my journey of self-discovery,” he said.

He mentioned that taking time away contributed a lot in his recovery but encouraged people to start talking about things that bother them and to stop living a fake life but a life of acceptance. 

It is estimated that close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year. Over 50 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. 

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