Going for what you believe in, says Luyanda Memela (32) of Izingolweni outside Port Shepstone, KwaZulu-Natal is the key to success. Her journey to become a psychologist began with financial challenges preventing her from finishing her schooling on time, followed by work in a restaurant at a young age. But she overcame the obstacles and excelled, and now she helps others to heal.
Memela’s financial difficulties prevented her from attending a tertiary institution after she completed her matric. She was forced to look for a job due to the circumstances. She worked at a neighbourhood restaurant for a year before getting the chance to pursue a career in the healthcare sector.
“I worked in a Shelly Beach restaurant in my neighbourhood. While there, I continued to look for opportunities to return to school.”
She says that as a young child growing up in a rural setting, she didn’t have any lofty career aspirations.
The family you can rely on upon!
In 2009, there was a high rate of tuberculosis cases in South Africa. As a result, the department of health recruited matriculated youth to train as TB data collectors, says Memela.
“I was one of those data collectors. We (all nine provinces) travelled to Limpopo for training; there were around 100 participants in total”
Memela tells Health For Mzansi that some of them, including herself, were offered scholarships in the healthcare field after being evaluated and determined to have the aptitude.
She argues that her upbringing has no bearing on her destiny. Instead, she says it impacts her decisions. “Psychology is not only a profession to me; it’s a lifestyle.”
Growing up with her maternal family’s extended family and cousins, taught her to look out for people and be considerate of them from a young age, Memela says.
“I grew up in a large family. I think that’s where I learnt the value of family, teamwork, and a sense of responsibility towards others.”
Finding healing in yourself
Memela explains that after enrolling in her career, she began to comprehend and fell in love with it. Her undergraduate and postgraduate studies were completed at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Pietermaritzburg campus.
“Undoubtedly, my profession assists me to better understand myself, my thoughts, emotions, and behaviour. It also has an impact on my parenting path.”
Memela says that from 2014 to 2018, while working as an employee assistant practitioner at Gamalakhe Community Health Centre in the Ugu District Municipality in Port Shepstone, she gained extensive knowledge about the industry, and people’s behaviours at large.
She resigned in 2019 and returned to school to get a master’s in clinical psychology. She began her career as a clinical psychologist in January 2023 at the Addington Hospital in Durban.
Memela asserts that more needs to be done to address the issue of mental health, including the stigma attached to it and discrimination so that people are aware of mental difficulties.
She believes that some people steer clear of the healthcare industry out of a basic fear of stigmatisation.
Community care at its core
Research supports the notion that a variety of factors, including a lack of financial support, genetics, drug use, childhood abuse, domestic abuse, traumatic brain injury, and many more, can lead to mental health problems.
Memela believes that if she can teach young children while their brains are still able to take in a lot of information, we would have a future generation that is more equipped to recognise mental diseases and to help one another.
She says that people ought to be kind to one another. She recommends seeking counselling, not just when things are out of control but also as soon as one realises they are having uncontrollable problems.
Children require affection, guidance, and optimum care, Memela adds. Children really hold the key to the future.
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