By: Precious M. Lesupi
Sanelisiwe Mdlovu of the Kingdom of Eswatini, counsellor and mental health activist speaks on common mental health issues associated with identity.
According to Mdlovu, most members of the LGBTQI++ community, it becomes difficult to understand one’s identity and cope with how people react towards who you are. The low self-esteem easily manifests into self-harm and suicidal thoughts. “The depression is fuelled by long-term effects of bullying and discrimination as well as hostility and rejection from the community and family and friends,” she mentioned.
Access to mental health care resources for queer people is a continuous problem in Africa because they are still stigmatised and rejected in a lot of our communities. Mdlovu mentions that most times, the most dominant issue causing the deterioration of mental wellbeing in the queer community stems from the family’s reaction or rejection thereof towards one’s identity. “When the people so close to you do not accept who you are, it’s easy for you to also not accept who you are,” Mdlovu continued.
Some of the most worrisome signs of a deteriorating mental wellbeing according to the counsellor include self harm and any signs of suicidal thoughts. “The person becomes so tired of being themselves because of not being understood and end up being suicidal,” she explained.
More than anything, Mdlovu recommends that, to assist our queer friends and families in their fight against mental health issues, we can start by trying to listen and understand them before bullying them. We could also look out for signs of self harm and perhaps a drastic change in behaviour that could include talks about harming oneself or ending one’s life. “It is important that we ty our best to advocate for the rights of the queer community and their access to mental health resources,” said Mdlovu.