An Eastern Cape psychologist is on a mission to dispel mental health stereotypes in black communities – one young mind at a time.
Community activist Dr Mthetho Tshemese is at the forefront of improving the quality of life in Mdantsane by addressing mental health issues in the minds of young people.
The former clinical psychologist, who swapped his white coat for community development work after 15 years in practice, is working alongside his brothers, Mawethu Ntsangani and Chuma Ngculana, through their NGO, Masikhule Innovations.
Led by Tshemese, the brothers are active shape shifters in the NU7 community.
The trio focus on and address mental health issues, gender roles and general health-related matters to nurture the psyche of underprivileged children.
Tshemese, who is also a musician and goes by the stage name Indlobongela, said his music is an extension of his work as a psychologist, and deems it as “healing activism”.
Masikhule Innovations has mentored young athletes and artists in the area, and has recently taken on Zamani Primary School as their first incubation hub for the NGO’s growing campaign titled Lomculo Liyeza (music is medicine) school tour.
The campaign aims to build young people holistically, while using music as the main outlet to do so.
“We want to mentor young boys especially. They are the main crime perpetrators and heavy drug users. Boys need to be psychologically initiated while they are still young. There are systems in place in the SA health industry. However, those systems don’t reach the grassroots. The government isn’t able to do all of this work alone,” he said.
“We mentor young people to bring out the best in them. Many of the children in Mdantsane have had a harsh and traumatic upbringing which could lead to depression and suicidal thoughts. We aim to eradicate those issues, because when a child’s mental health is intact, they can respond positively to themselves and to their community at large.”
The social entrepreneurs say they want to work alongside parents to promote the longevity of their work as an organisation.
“Zamani Primary School is a site where we will implement the innovation. The school is in agreement with us to begin work immediately. This campaign aims to work with as many schools as possible,” said Tshemese.
He said they would train school staff in identifying children who are victims of abuse and sexual assault.
Zamani Primary principal Nomphelo Faku said she hoped the collaboration with Masikhule Innovations would better their school.