Ncedolwethu Mjuluki’s journey to becoming a mental health nurse began with childhood experiences that were painful and difficult to overcome. His life experience is now driven to make a difference in the lives of others facing similar challenges.
As a mental health nurse, he helps patients find comfort and strength through empathy and understanding.
Growing up in the rural community of Phelandaba, in Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape, Mjuluki was raised in a society where it was taboo to discuss abuse. Survivors of abuse often had to justify their existence, which only deepened the shame and stigma around the issue.
Navigating the effects of childhood trauma
“Growing up was hard back then, but ubuntu was the thing that kept other people’s homes warm, regardless of poverty”, he says.
His mother, Noncedo Mjuluki, was a single parent who worked hard to provide for her family.
“I remember having to go ask for a maizemeal from neighbours while my mom prepared a fire outside to cook for us.
“At some stage, the only source of income for us was a child social grant of my little sister born in 1997.”
As if poverty wasn’t enough, Mjuluki remembers witnessing an abusive relationship with his mother’s partner (stepfather), who brought them a horrific six years of grief and terror.
“They parted ways in 2006 after which I declared to him and my mother that I didn’t want him at our home anymore. I was only 17 years old.”
Mjuluki shares that he felt a strong sense of responsibility to become a man and take care of his mother and siblings. When he left, he noticed that his mother was able to live a more liberated and happier life.
From dreams to reality
This Queenstown nurse aspired to be a doctor, but despite meeting the basic qualifications for medical school, he was unable to gain admission due to the high level of competition.
After graduating in matric from Mehlomakulu in Herschel in 2008, he went to Lilitha College of Nursing and graduated with a four-year Comprehensive Diploma in Nursing Science (general, community, psychiatry, and midwifery).
Since 2017, up to date, he has been working at Komani Psychiatric Hospital, and from 2019 to 2020, Mjuluki went to study specialisation in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Stellenbosch in Cape Town.
“Psychosocial issues such as poverty, violence and persistent pain and suffering are the contributing factors to mental illness,” he says.
Mjuluki believes that children of single parents are often unfairly stigmatised and misconstrued when it comes to recognising the value of family, according to societal norms.
However, it is critical to note that this assumption is both unfair and harmful, he says. It can lead to a variety of negative outcomes, he adds, including abuse, low self-esteem, a lack of acceptance, feelings of isolation, and even mental health issues.
Men’s mental health concerns
According to Mjuluki, men are typically reluctant to visit a clinic or hospital, not even for a simple headache or STDs.
Growing up and observing a lot from a young age, it always stuck in his mind why most men are the ones more on the streets, which he now understands better.
It is difficult to encourage people of any gender to confront mental health concerns, according to him, due to the enormous stigma associated with them. He continues by saying that not enough is being done by the government to prevent this.
“Even health professionals are afraid to be seen to be having mental health issues.”
The power of therapy
He attended therapy in 2016 after realising that he needed to confront all his childhood traumas to recover and move on with his life, as well as to be a humane father and husband to his family and community.
“What can be done now is to strengthen the mental health service and decentralise them into the primary level, that is, the clinic. People should be able to go to the clinic and debrief after being exposed to a traumatic experience or event.”
He recommends seeking professional help rather than attempting to “tough it out” on your own. ‘”Most men are dealing with enormous stresses that lead to mental health issues.
“It is very important to be vulnerable when the situation permits because that is when you get to debrief, that is, stating exactly what happened the way you experienced it.”
It is better to seek help early rather than later to treat or cure something that should have been averted, he advises.
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