Shudufhadzo Musida was crowned Miss South Africa in October 2020 at the beauty pageant that has been held every year in South Africa since 1956 — a win hailed as a victory for representation.
The 24-year-old Limpopo-born model obtained a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Pretoria, before going on to study International Relations at the University of the Witwatersrand where she obtained her degree just two months after being crowned.
Musida is an advocate for mental health awareness and the empowerment of women and children. Speaking to News24, Musida said she wants to use her qualifications and her platform to create positive change.
Her words became a reality in February, when she launched her online initiative: Mindful Mondays, together with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag). In the weekly Instagram live stream Musida covers mental health alongside Dr. Zamo Mbele, a clinical psychologist and board member of the Sadag.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions that affect your mood, thinking, and behaviour.
Here are seven things to know about mental health that Miss South Africa highlighted during her first Mindful Mondays live stream.
1. One of the most challenging things about mental health is that it is not spoken about enough.
As highlighted by the hosts on the show: “It is important to have conversations [about mental health] because with COVID-19, people lost their livelihoods, jobs, and loved ones, and the mental health issues that exist in our society have exacerbated extremely."
2. Mental health conversations are needed in order to promote well-being and to diagnose.
When people talk about their struggles or discuss their symptoms, they said, it becomes easier to identify and gives professionals the ability to diagnose and treat the illness accordingly.
3. 1 in 4 people are expected to suffer from mental health issues in their lifetime.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that mental health conditions are also increasing worldwide — with a 13% rise in mental health conditions in the decade up to 2017. But despite this, the global median of government health funding to mental health is less that 2%.
4. There’s a common misconception that mental illnesses do not affect children.
Mbele highlighted: “Mental illnesses affect everyone across different age groups, gender, race, culture, etc. Everyone has the potential to suffer from mental illness."
When it comes to children and adolescents, around 20% have a mental health condition, according to the WHO, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds.
5. It is difficult to identify a mental illness until you know how to look for it.
Some people refrain from speaking about their problems, meaning that it's harder to recognise symptoms of a mental health disorder. “It becomes difficult for the professionals to treat an illness if the person themself does not recognise the problem. It takes too much work to let it out in the open for it to be treated,” said Mbele.
6. Separating the person from the illness is key to ending the stigma.
To further this point, Musida said: “When people come to terms with the fact that they have a mental illness, they resort to saying ‘something is wrong with me’. There needs to be a way to refrain from that because it takes away from people trying to get help.”
“There needs to be a separation between the person and the illness because it might be caused by something you are going through that is diagnosable and treatable," Mbele added. "You can perhaps say ‘I am going through something’ as opposed to saying ‘something is wrong with me.'"
7. One common sign of mental illness is that the daily activities you do become hard to achieve.
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of mental illness include a reduced ability to concentrate, withdrawal from social activities, feeling sad or down, the inability to cope with daily problems or stress, suicidal thinking, extreme mood changes, and significant tiredness.
“Mental health can affect people in such a way that they do not want to do anything. It can take away people’s lives. It takes away the ability of a person to live their life, to thrive, to work, to build relationships, and to love. It can literally take away people’s lives through suicide,” said Mbele.
If you’re in South Africa and would like support with your mental health, you can find resources and support services here. If you're outside of South Africa, you can find international mental health support resources here.