Former Miss South Africa Shudufhadzo Musida has been recognised by the United Nations and Glamour magazine for her relentless contribution to removing the stigma attached to mental health. From opening her mental health initiative #MindfulMondays to serve as a regional voice for women and girls in the East and Southern African region. Ms Shudufhadzo Musida in her own words says that the mental illness stigma is when people fear the unknown. “We tend to not speak about these things and we vilify people that are living with mental illnesses because there’s not much education around especially in our black communities. This is to say, if you don’t know it you’d rather give it many different names that are discriminatory and damaging.
We’ve seen a lot of circulating social media posts from the masses wherein people post hashtags ‘depression is real’ when they lose their loved ones or public figures but there’s so much that people still don’t understand on what it is exactly to live with mental illness. Such hashtags die after two days at most because we’re apprehensive about taking steps into actually talking constructively and seeking help. Ms Musida says that most people don’t understand that mental health is as important as physical health— “the same way you can get flu or cancer is the same way you can get mental illness such as anxiety, bipolar disorders and depression among others. At the end of the day, we are the ones who know the different kinds of demons that we deal with mentally. It’s about time we learn that asking for help regarding mental illness is just as crucial, not something we can hide under carpet and expect the best.”
The most effective way to combat the stigma that people have is through education! “It’s hard and fearful to tackle something of which you do not know much about. There should be more educational channels for mental health because it’s such a crucial part of sexual and reproductive health and plays a significant role in individuals exercising their human rights.” Her initiative called Mindful Mondays is an online educational platform that strives to achieve mental wellness where they bring in different mental health experts to inform and educate.
Five things that Shudufhadzo does to take care of her mental health.
• Ensuring that I’m aware of the things that trigger me and learning how to deal with them.
• Treating mental illness the same way as I treat my physical well-being.
• Eating healthy food because mental and physical health are interconnected.
• Taking time out to take good care of myself. Nothing speaks of self care like doing little things such as taking a long shower, lighting scented candles, cooking you favourite meal and even napping.
• Journaling and reflecting on my emotions.
What we can look forward to from the Limpopo-born beauty queen is more initiatives to have these conversations. “For me, mental health is something that is not really spoken about. Unfortunately, it is considered a taboo subject that is often engaged with, not to rehabilitate but to shame and ridicule, so I want to bring that conversation into the open. It’s time our society stands together to confront this issue at hand head first.” she concluded