Using words, dance, or music to overcome depression

According to South African Depression and Anxiety Group a fifth of all South Africans will experience a depressive disorder at least once during their lifetime.(Photo Credit: Helen Harrop/ Flickr)
Written by Imameleng Masitha

Speaking to a therapist isn’t the only way to deal with depression and anxiety. South Africans are connecting to their creative side to channel their healing.

Samelihle Mbanjwa from Delft in the outskirts of Cape Town, says living in an area riddled with gang violence can lead to anxiety and high-stress levels, especially with people who are unable to afford treatment or help.

“In Delft, there are no areas where you can go to get help if you need to speak about depression or stress. I have tried different routes including psychology, but it didn’t help me very much because [of the] costs involved,” she says.

Mbanjwa says since she started writing and using poetry to channel her healing, she has seen a difference in her life.

“From writing a suicide note and turning it to a poem [has been] my form of healing [but] it didn’t happen overnight. Our community suffers in silence because health care is expensive in our country.”

It is treatable

According to South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) “a fifth of all South Africans will experience a depressive disorder at least once during their lifetime and the incidence of suicide in South Africa has soared to 23 a day”.

Yet depression is a highly treatable condition, says SADAG, and the vast majority (between 80 and 90%) of people have a good response and experience relief from their symptoms.”

Ways of healing

According to Zanele Siko, a drama therapy master’s candidate at the University of the Witwatersrand, working with clients who suffer from mental health issues requires a connection from the therapist to the clients because “as Africans, we have different ways of connecting”. Siko, who uses drama as therapy, says these connections could [be made] either be t through music, dance or storytelling as they are also forms of healing. 

“Using drama therapy has helped me with my clients and I’ve seen an impact on people. I use movement as well as bringing story and characters into a play and working from those stories that affect the client,” says Siko.

Siko admits she has also seen a psychologist but felt disconnected. So she did research to help her understand the disconnection between Africans and mental health healing. 

“Alternative ways of healing should be open for our people and practised as well. A person needs to at least have the two choices of seeing a psychologist, drama therapy or whatever they feel that could help their healing process,” says Siko.

Thabo Mashiyane* (27) says he experienced what he thought was mild anxiety. Having been raised by a single mother with two other siblings, was difficult. Overcoming anxiety was a decision he took and started doing what he enjoys.  

“Africans have always had ways of healing and dealing with mental health. It was not an individual issue, but a community issue where everyone is involved. Dancing [was used] as well. The language of psychology also distances our people because we cannot relate or connect,” he says. – Health-e News 

*Not his real name 


About the author

Imameleng Masitha