By Grace Molefe
Lesotho has one of the highest suicide rates in Africa, according to a 2019 study. Despite this fact, one that most of our Basotho people are oblivious to, our country of over two million people does not have a single Suicide Prevention Hotline and mental health is still an extremely misunderstood topic that carries huge stigma.
Many, especially in older generations, believing that mental health disorders are “White People Illnesses” and cling to proverbs such as “Monna ke Nku Ha a Lle”, which, roughly translates to “a man does not cry” - upholding toxic masculinity that is detrimental to the mental health of men in particular, stopping them from expressing their emotions or reaching out for help. Even when people recognise that they are struggling with their mental health, they do not know what to do, where to turn or who to go to for help.
Faced with the dangerous status quo, I created an organisation in 2018 called Young Adults Fighting Depression (YAFID) which works to raise awareness about the importance of mental health, warning signs within yourself and others and how and when to seek help. YAFID is the first organisation of its kind in my small country and over the last two years, we have slowly been growing our presence across the country.
Our team of 10 passionate young mental health advocates seek to be a bridge between those who need help and the mental health experts who are able to provide what they need. We host seminars on mental health and activities that promote good mental health. Linked with the seminars, we work to create a safe space where young people can talk about what they are going through in a safe, private and judgement-free space – finding connection, community and understanding from others who are experiencing similar struggles. Lastly, we also work with a network of psychologists across the country, to connect young people to resources and professionals, with many young people entering counselling for mental health through our programme.
Our focus in the coming years is to establish the first Suicide Prevention Hotline and to reach young people in youth in the Lesotho Highlands who do not have access to the internet and who are therefore not able to find or engage with us. We hope to one day have offices that provide walk-in mental health support by professional psychologists in each district in our country.
We have big goals, but we are determined to break the stigma and establish a new status quo around mental health in Lesotho.
To find out more or support the team, head to www.instagram.com/yafid_lso/