Women are to be celebrated for all the wonderful things they do for their families, in their careers and professions, in their communities, and in society at large. This is particularly true in August, which is Women’s Month in South Africa. However, life often takes its toll on women, and many end up being depressed. So, here are some insights into this illness, and some hope for those who may be experiencing it. This will also be helpful to understand a loved one who may be suffering from depression.

The good news is you are not alone. There is help out there.

Depression afflicts people of all ages, genders, classes, ethnicities – in short, it can happen to just about anyone at some point and to some degree. But the staggering reality is that the majority of sufferers are women. It has been reported that “41.9% of women in South Africa are affected by depression or related mental health issues”. And it is widely acknowledged that the current pandemic is increasing the incidence of anxiety and depression. Particularly among women, as is to be expected.

Depression and Covid-19

This is a distressing, uncertain time. To many, it seems to be never-ending – as if there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You may be experiencing the fallout from losing your job. Be struggling financially. Worried about if and when the economy will pick up. Grieving the loss of loved ones or the life you knew before the pandemic. Feeling frustrated and cut off by continued social distancing. Afraid of you and/or your loved ones contracting the virus. Any or all of these effects of the pandemic could trigger a depressive episode. Or worsen existing depression.

There is Hope. There is help out there. 

There are a number of activities that can help to lift your mood and restore your balance. Much has been spoken and written about self-care in recent years. Two articles and a video can be found on the #ImStaying website (see the links at the end of this article). It’s important for everyone to practise some form/s of self-care. It is a recognition that you matter. But you may need more. You may need outside help.

The good news is that people with depression are no longer doomed to a life of emotional and mental suffering, possible hospitalisation and even suicide. More and more people are finding healing through modern medicines and other therapies. But many, many more are not. What holds them back?

Barriers to seeking help for depression

1. Stigma

“Vulnerability is allowing ourselves to be truly seen.” – Bonnie Mbuli

The greatest barrier to seeking help for depression is probably the stigma attached to it. And to mental illness in general. There is an abundance of myths and misconceptions around mental and emotional illness. The descriptions, “unpredictable”, “different”, “weak”, “crazy”, or even “dangerous”, are typically applied to people afflicted with mental illness. But this is not the reality in most cases. So, people who need help are afraid to be judged if they are “outed”. Consider the “strong woman” image which has been around for so long, and celebrated by women. How could you ever admit that you are not a strong woman? Even to yourself?

2. Poor understanding of mental illnesses 

Lack of knowledge about the nature of depression also holds people back. They do not know that they are experiencing depression. They discount their feelings with all kinds of scenarios. They also do not know that they are suffering from a treatable illness.

3. Not knowing where to go for help

Telling someone is essential to getting help. However, ignorance of the places that offer help for depression sufferers is another big obstacle. In South Africa today there are many avenues to obtain help. Your GP. The state health clinics and hospitals. Private psychiatrists and psychologists. And helping organisations – some of these are listed at the end of this article. 

Millions of people worldwide have found help to regain their mental health. 

Indeed, there are a number of celebrities who have spoken frankly about their struggles. Also, their victories over depression, suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide. Their stories often encourage others to seek help.

Some of these celebrities are South African. 

Quite a few have received media attention. Among them are Vuyelwa Booi and Bonnie Mbuli.

Vuyelwa Booi

Vuyelwa is an actress, singer and television presenter. She is best known for her role as Alyce Morapedi on the SABC2 soapie, 7de Laan. She has suffered from depression since childhood, but was held back from getting treatment by her parents. This was largely because of cultural attitudes towards the illness. Eventually, in 2010, she suffered a breakdown. Only then did she get the help she needed. 

Bonnie Mbuli

Bonnie – actress, businesswoman, and television personality – has received wide media attention. She was a presenter in one of the most-watched television shows in South Africa, Afternoon Express on SABC 3. The spotlight fell on her when she published her depression journey in her memoir, ‘Eyebags and Dimples’. The book is described as “criticising society’s obsession with perfectionism and addressing the social stigma surrounding depression”. She continues to fight this darkness. By going public Bonnie sparked widespread discussion on depression. She continues to use the media, including discussions on podcasts, to spread the word.

This beautiful poem by her is a call not to give up:

Remember your fire, warm yourself beside it, till the night takes leave. Remember your story, rise from its pages, till you have the final say.” 

Bonnie Mbuli


#ImStaying Website links:



Where to go

  • SADAG suicide crisis line: 0800 567 567 or SMS 31393
  • SADAG website: sadag.org
  • Lifeline (24-hours, toll-free): 0800 055 555

Statics sourced from Health24 https://www.health24.com/Medical/Depression/Overview/how-common-is-depression-20190125

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