By: Anele Gcwabe
“I started this project because of my passion for mental health. In 2015 I dropped out of College while doing my 4th year studying Theology because of depression and anxiety. I was suicidal and attempted to commit suicide a couple of times. I realized the need for mental health awareness and I wanted to use my story to reach out to other people living with mental illness and to break stigma on mental illness in our society.”- Zamokuhle Masondo
It is not often that you meet a young person who is willing to speak openly about their own depression and anxiety. Often, we shy away from exposing ourselves because of the stigma that comes with it, and for fear of being judged. Is it not evident, then, that the few people who speak up about it are not only brave, they are also the ones who may lead us down the path of healing. Their influence can never be diminished.
Meet Zamokuhle Masondo, Activator and founder of Mental Health Awareness Organization, Dark Cloud Above Me. This is an organisation that creates awareness on mental health and supports people living with mental illness. Their vision is Health, Happiness and Healing for the African Child. They are passionate about making mental health more accessible in South Africa and to the rest of Africa.
Based in Ennerdale, South of Johannesburg, they have also extended their reach and are now also operating in two other Provinces in South Africa. In the Western Cape, Cape Town- Somerset West under the leadership of Siyamthanda Mqhayisa and the Eastern Cape,Port Elizabeth under the leadership of Thando Trevor Kamana. Dark Cloud Above Me was founded in July 2017 and launched officially on the 8th of October 2017 in Ennerdale Johannesburg, where they held their first Depression Workshop.
“I am the Director and Speaker of the Organization. I founded the organization in 2017 because of my passion for mental health, having suffered from depression, anxiety and had suicidal thoughts. Our team has grown since then and I provide leadership to the management team comprised of young people. Having a big passion for public speaking- in the workshops, seminars and events we host on mental health- I serve as the speaker of the organization and am involved in the planning of the events we run and our day to day operations”, explains Masondo.
Their direct beneficiaries are young people aged 14-35 in Ennerdale, Johannesburg. These are the young people they have worked with over the years. “Mental Health affects everyone, so while our focus has been on young people who have been affected the most, our program also targets the wider community of everyone affected by mental illness. From Parents of children, teens and youth who battle mental illness; to teachers and religious organizations such as churches as well as universities and business owners”, he continues.
Their local partners include:
- The Department of Arts, Culture, Sports and Recreation in Region G, Gauteng,
- The Department of Health in Region G.
- Azania 27- which deals with Youth, Women and People with Disabilities,
- Ennerdale without Borders,
- SOS Children’s Village in Ennerdale,
- Revived Africa,
- Mentor Me Too,
- Boys Matter Too,
- Talks with Nicholas,
- Mental Pulse,
- Mharp (Mental Health And Renewal Program)
- Mental Talk 101,
- Doses of Sunshine,
- Tray Studios,
- Ladies of Hope,
- ACTIVATE! Change Drivers has been a big support.
“I hope to break the stigma that exists around mental illness in our society so that less people who live with mental illness will suffer in silence”, says Masondo while explaining what he hopes to achieve with the project. “I hope to make mental health more accessible to people of lower and middle class backgrounds in our country through the establishment of mental health facilities all over South Africa and Africa and to drive investment towards mental health as a whole”, he continues.
Maosndo’s biggest achievement to date has been publishing a book- in 2019- called Cape To Soweto, I Can’t Breathe, Journeys with Depression. This book was written alongside his partner in the organization, Siyamthanda Mqhayisa. It was financially supported by TV personality and Mental Health Activist, Boni Mbuli.
“Activators can be part of our project by following us on Social Media and keeping up to date with what we are doing. We are always open and looking forward to partnering with activators in the Mental Health Sector. They can support us through collaborating with us on upcoming events, which we communicate through our social media platforms”, he concludes.