For most Batswana, nothing screams white man’s problem louder than depression. The condition has for a long time been perceptually linked to affluence. It was seen as a luxury reserved for only the most privileged members of society, and, thus, not really a disease at all, but the petulance of English medium school spoiled brats who want an excuse to act up.
Recent research in Botswana has however revealed that the problem is now endemic among both the rich and the poor. A research study by Mosepele Mosepele from Princess Marina Hospital, Esther Seloilwe Center for the Study of HIV and AIDS, University of Botswana Kathy Lawler The cross-sectional study Depression in HIV-Positive Women in Gaborone, Botswana measured prevalence of depression and suicide ideation in 62 randomly selected HIV-positive (HIV+) women in Botswana, at the center of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Another study Suicide ideation and depression in university students in Botswana found a high incidence of depression at the University of Botswana which is not exactly an Ivy League college. The Research paper by Iram Korb
The study aimed at exploring suicide ideation and its relationship to depression in university students in Botswana. Data were collected from 122 undergraduate students (68.9% females, 31.1% males) with a mean age of 20.02 years. Depressive symptoms were measured with an adapted version of Beck’s Depression Inventory-II. In total, 47.5% of the respondents reported suicide ideation, 28.7% reported previous suicide attempts, and the mean depression score was 19.14. Suicide ideation correlated strongly with total depression scores. The level of depression severity was linearly related to suicide ideation but 14.3% of respondents who scored at the level of minimal depression and 53.8% of those who scored at the level of mild depression had also contemplated suicide. The level of education of respondents’ mothers had an inverse relationship with suicide ideation and with depression in that those whose mothers had a tertiary level education were less likely to engage in suicide ideation and had significantly lower depression scores.
The youth of Botswana seem to be the most affected by depression. Dr Thelma Tlhaselo-Majela, Executive Director of Phronesis International College (PIC) located in Ramotswa says that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) depression is the most commonly diagnosed mental health illness in Botswana and many factors may be a catalyst in depression include genetics and life events such as losing a loved one, a difficult relationship or an early childhood experience that have brought trauma. “Children today face a great range of pressures, they live in a world full of high expectations and the technologies they are exposed to bring about new challenges such as cyber bullying.” She said parents should look out for continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness in their children; social withdrawal; increased sensitivity to rejection; changes in appetite or sleep; outbursts and crying; loss of interest in their hobbies; worthlessness or guilt and, at worst, thoughts to harm themselves. The PIC school offers tertiary education in counselling programmes, walk in counselling services, short courses, research and consultancy work, as well as outreach services in the community.
Larona Moseki is a 19 year old young man who lives in Gaborone and is battling with depression opened up to the Sunday Standard about his condition:, “I think everything went downhill after my form five results came out, I did fairly well just not as well as I would have liked. No one knew I was depressed. I myself didn’t even know. All I knew was that I felt empty on the inside; detached. I had no interest in dating or doing the things I once enjoyed, in an attempt to hide the growing ‘darkness’ within me, I would put on a happy face. I desperately wanted to speak to someone about it but I thought no one would understand.”Larona was able to speak to his parents who took him to therapy; He sees the therapist twice a week. He is currently on a gap year and will be resuming studies at BUIST next year where he will study Computer Science & Engineering.
Speaking to Sunday Standard’s Lifestyle Amogelang Ditiro a sales agent at Alpha Direct Insurance in Gaborone says. “Having “grown up,” parents and other adults often dismiss the troubles young people face as trivial or insignificant. It is important to remember that, regardless of whether parents have recently divorced, there was a nasty break-up with a partner, or a failed exam, in the mind of a young adult even the most seemingly ‘insignificant’ event could very often be the tipping point for what has already been a build-up of stress and depression over a period of time.” He says, a common complaint from young people with regard to seeking assistance for issues of mental health is a lack of finances ÔÇô either money is scarce, or they are afraid to speak to parents about assisting them pay for psychologists.