Hardships of caring for a mentally ill parent

Written by Teboho Setlofane

FREE STATE – Seipati Radimo (21) says caring for her mentally ill mother affects her school performance by causing her to lose focus.

“She becomes well for two years and then she becomes sick again,” says Radimo, who says her mother used to be a traditional healer and helped many people in the community.

Radimo says her mother went to the traditional initiation school when she was a young woman and later went to the school of traditional medicine to be initiated as a traditional healer. It is then that her mother started to become ill.

Her mother experiences episodes when she behaves strangely. She appears in Radimo’s class at school.

Only child

“My peers laugh at me while others pity me. It hurts a lot,” said Radimo, an only child who lives with her mother.

“When my mother is sick, she burns the clothes and furniture at our house. The family takes her to the mental home when she has a breakdown, and she returns when she has recovered,” said Radimo, who usually goes to stay with her uncle when this happens.

She admits it is not easy to cope with the burden of embarrassment and shame, but she is comforted and supported by her relatives and friends who provide their support.

Radimo has started making use of a community radio station to make an announcement when her mother disappears, calling for the community to help when they see her.  She believes the community still needs awareness around mental health. 

An edited version of this story was published by Health24.

About the author

Teboho Setlofane