Having lived at his home village for three years after he was diagnosed with a mental health problem, 33-year-old Martin Shongolo rose from the dust to earn himself a Basic Education Teachers Diploma (BETD), an Advanced Certificate in Education and a Certificate in English Proficiency.
Today Shongolo is a published author of two Oshindonga books, a novel, as well as a collection of poetry.
It was no walk in the park though, but the confident teacher says keeping to his treatment regimen aided in restoring his mental health and stability and he is now able to live a normal life as a productive citizen.
Narrating his story during the Mental Health Day celebration here on Monday, Shongolo said he was diagnosed with manic depression in 2003 while he was a second-year Bachelor of Accounting student at the University of Namibia.
With a mere two years to go to finish his course, his sponsor at the time terminated his bursary upon hearing that he was frequenting the mental health unit.
“When the bursary officers heard that I was at the mental health unit they decided to terminate my scholarship,” said Shongolo.
With no money to further his studies he left for the village, where he stayed for some three years helping around the house.
He recalls being ridiculed and insulted. “It was not easy, I suffered a lot. Mostly, because my parents could not afford to re-enrol me again at university,” he said. His painful past taught him though that mental illness does not discriminate.
“I was a bright learner at school. I scored several distinctions in Grade 12, as well as in my second year [at university], but little did I know I could also face mental health issues,” he said.
He now encourages people who realize they are suffering from mental problems to prioritise getting help and to consistently take their medication.
He says there is a need to supplement prescriptions with counseling and advised affected persons to approach a clinical psychologist. “Mental illness can be defeated,” he told the audience.
He advises people to refrain from discriminating against those with mental health problems and called on everyone to support people who suffer from poor mental health.
“They need to be educated and given jobs, as well as to be promoted to any available promotional posts in government and the private sector,” he argued.