Opinionista Rebone Tau 10 January 2018

The ANCYL brief: Meeting youth’s real challenges

The ANCYL should start thinking outside the box and consider having campaigns that talk directly to the young people of this country, being active in all communities – and particularly focusing on the problems that plague young people across the nation.

South Africa’s young people face many problems, some of which lead to substance abuse. One of the biggest challenges facing youth is depression, a medical problem not discussed enough in our communities.

This is in part because it is regarded as a white people’s sickness. Depression does not have colour, however. In our communities, young people have taken their own lives, believing this is their only way out. It is a tragic outcome where they are afraid to ask for help, fearing they would be perceived as weak.

Depression has many triggers. At times, it’s the situation at home, work, school or in one’s love life. A depressed person can put a smile and a brave face if they want to be perceived as having a strong character. However, some start drinking too much or using drugs to ease the pain, and some withdraw from the outside world. They may lock themselves in their houses, wanting to be alone. Some resort to self-harm. At times, depression leads to suicide, which may be stigmatised – an act described as selfish, rather than its root cause being examined.

It is important that the ANCYL takes up its rightful space in society and tries to understand the challenges facing its constituency. It should look at working very closely with The South African Depression & Anxiety Group (SADAG) moving forward. For a depressed young person, Radical Economic Transformation would be the last thing on their mind, especially when they are hurting and scared of being judged. Instead, they need support.

Because we don’t understand all the symptoms of depression, we may want to reach out, but not know how to help. In 2018 things should be done differently by the ANCYL, in making sure it champions the interests of young people in South Africa. Depression is real, and a lot of young people are affected by it – the worst feeling one could experience. Yet one can overcome it with support.

The first step to healing is knowing you have a support system that would not make fun of your medical problem. The struggle for the youth continues and should not be limited to economic liberation only, as young people need help in dealing with their daily challenges. DM

Rebone Tau is a former ANCYL National Task Team member. She writes in her personal capacity.

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