By Sindiso Dube
After surviving bipolar and mental issues, former super model and veteran model instructor Sipho Mazibuko has urged people who are facing mental issues and depression to quickly seek psychological help before it gets too late.
Mazibuko was speaking to the Standard Style on World Mental Health Day.
World Mental Health Day is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. It was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organisation with members and contacts in more than 150 countries.
Observed on October 10 every year, the day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.
Nearly 10 years ago, due to a bipolar disorder, Mazibuko suffered a widely publicised breakdown which resulted in her attempting suicide.
Mazibuko got admitted to Ingutsheni Central Hospital, Zimbabwe’s largest psychiatric health centre in Bulawayo.
Bipolar is a disorder allied with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs. Its exact cause is not known, but a combination of genetics, environment and altered brain structure and chemistry may play a role.
Research reveals that manic episodes may include symptoms such as high energy, reduced need for sleep and loss of touch with reality. Depressive episodes may include symptoms such as low energy, low motivation and loss of interest in daily activities. Mood episodes last days to months at a time and may also be associated with suicidal thoughts.
Mazibuko said people should treat depression as a medical condition and not as a spiritual condition, evil spirits or being bewitched.
She added that it is a condition that someone can get out of if treated well.
“Bipolar is a condition which should be treated with utmost importance,” she said.
“Many people associate such conditions, including depression, as spiritual attacks or bad luck and don’t get psychological help.
“I urge people to seek psychiatric assistance whenever they are faced with such conditions.
“I was at a point where I didn’t want anything to do with my life. I was pregnant when bipolar hit me and at some point, I wanted to kill my baby. Thanks to the help of my personal psychiatrist Dr Elina Poskochinova, who was patient with me and helped me go through the breakdown and I gave birth to a beautiful baby.
She added: “If it wasn’t for the efforts of Dr Poskochinova, I would have given in to the breakdown and the pressure that came with the condition, honestly I had given up on life.
“After I was discharged from Ingutsheni, I faced yet another fight against stigma since my journey to Ingutsheni was followed and widely publicised in the media.”
Poskochinova, a forensic psychiatrist, urged people to take bipolar as a medical condition that can be cured.
“On this day of World Mental Health Day, I urge everyone facing mental conditions or anyone with their loved ones facing such to seek a psychiatrist urgently,” Poskochinova said.
“They will help you get through such a dark phase in life. I challenge many to emulate Sipho. When I met her she was in a dire situation — she had given up on life and her baby she was carrying, but through many sessions together, she managed to pick herself up and maintained a positive attitude.
“That’s why she is here now with us, fit and ready to work.”
To show that she was now back in business, Mazibuko relaunched Strides Hair Salon in September.
“I am back and I’m proud of my return to the game. I have relaunched and rebranded the salon. The shop has been running for 19 years now, but since I started battling bipolar disorder, it got run down. It’s time to restore its former glory,” she said.
Mazibuko was crowned Miss Highlanders Football Club in 1991 and went on to be voted Miss Teen Queen and Miss Bulawayo the following year.
She established Strides Modelling Agency which nurtured models such as Samantha Tshuma and Lorraine Maphala-Phiri. She is also the licence holder of the Miss Rural beauty pageant.