“Mediclinic Denmar Mental Health Services changed my life”
Posted on 3 May 2022
Kabelo Chabalala explains how seeking help with his mental health turned out to be a positive and life-altering decision.
Four years ago, I survived my second car accident in less than six months – and being the “superman” I thought I was, I simply continued with life as normal. But something wasn’t right; I was experiencing loss of appetite, loss of interest in daily activities and low energy levels.
After much persuasion from colleagues at the fast-paced newsroom environment in which I worked, I eventually agreed to see a clinical psychologist at Denmar Mental Health Services. I did my best to hide where I was going from the people close to me. I was very scared of being stigmatised. I was also ashamed.
Being raised in a community where the world “psychology” is associated with psychosis, I was hesitant about seeking help. I come from a village where people believe depression is a “white people’s sickness” and that black people cannot be stressed or depressed. But I was. In fact, I’d been diagnosed with a severe depressive episode, without psychotic symptoms, caused by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I believe this was the result of the two accidents I’d been involved in. I was having flashbacks while driving, and there were routes I’d avoid just so I wouldn’t have to relive the feeling of those fateful days.
So, when I made an appointment at Denmar Mental Health Services, it was in the hope that I’d get a chance to talk about my issues for hours with the psychologist. I thought she’d then refer me to a psychiatrist who would prescribe medication I could take at home. I was wrong. When the psychologist said, “I think I should admit you this afternoon,” the words left me dizzy and confused. I engaged her further and understood she was suggesting in-patient occupational therapy sessions to help me understand my situation better.
Nobody was forcing me to go, but the psychologist was advising me to do so based on her professional opinion. I went home to internalise what she’d said. After some deliberation, I went to work to inform my boss about my decision. I packed my bag and asked a friend to drop me off at Mediclinic Denmar Mental Health Services, where I admitted myself.
For three weeks, I attended occupational therapy sessions that taught me a lot about setting boundaries and being assertive. I also learned that not everything is about winning and being number one. I saw my psychologist every day and my psychiatrist every second day.
Today, as a black man, I’m proud to tell my story of how seeking help was the first great step in finding healing and becoming a better version of myself. I’m still benefiting from the decision I took four years ago. In retrospect, I wish I’d done it earlier, and would certainly go again if necessary. I’ve realised that prioritising my mental wellbeing is far more important than an annual car service.
Denmar will remain a safe haven for me. It’s a place where I learned I can turn my pain into life lessons. As American television personality Fred Rogers once put it, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”
Let’s take care of our psychological and emotional wellbeing – without shame.
- Kabelo Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement (YMM), an organisation that helps boys become better men.