5FM radio host, Linda Mbuso (30), has been very outspoken about mental illness in the black community, and with his degree in psychology, he hopes to end the suffering in the community.
By: Thanduxolo “Thandz” Buti
Photos courtesy of Linda
Since landing his first big radio break on YFM, in 2009, Linda has used radio as a way to have insightful and sometimes uncomfortable, but imperative, conversations.
His inquisitive, charming and hilarious nature, has seen him cultivated a cult following as the host of 5FM Nights, every Monday to Thursday (7-10 pm) on 5FM.
Born in Pimpville (Soweto), he had his first introduction to radio as a Deputy Head Boy at Holy Family College, in Parktown. “The attraction came with knowing that I could speak to hundreds and thousands of people in one go and have a positive influence on their day,” He tells Blacklight.
“If someone felt down, I could be the person to uplift their mood, and also be a companion and friend in whatever activity they were partaking in.”
Apart from radio, Linda is also a TV presenter, writer, voice-over artist and PR & Social Media Manager. However, he also hopes to use his degree in psychology to help heal people through his work.
Linda is a proud supporter of SADAG (The South African Depression And Anxiety Group) and uses every opportunity he gets to help educate people about mental illness.
Blacklight: What has being in the media industry taught you about the kind person you want to be?
Linda Mbuso: Being in this (entertainment) industry I want to be a person who is approachable, a person who can be relatable and one who people will want to share and trust with their life stories.
Being in the industry has also taught me that I don’t want the entertainment industry to change the person that I am. I don’t want what I do to be bigger than who I am, because those are intrinsically two different things. Because I work in radio, it doesn’t have to be all that I am, I can still be me. If I were to stop working in radio, I’d still want to have an identity.
BL: As a radio personality, what do you hope to impart to your listeners?
LM: I use myself as a visual example of what I wish to impart. It’s like I live through experiences, and without having to explain what those were, I project myself openly on radio.
I don’t ascribe to any forms of prejudice whether it be racial, socio-economic, gender or sexuality-based — I always try to showcase how we should all treat each other by the way I treat the listeners.
I want that to then resonate among the poll of those who listen to me. It’s like if you listen to my show and like what you hear, I would expect you to have some of my values too.
So, if I’m non-prejudice to people of a different sexual orientation, then I would expect you as my listener to be the same. We are the crowd we hang out with, and if you hang out with me on the radio show then let’s all be on the same page with our values.
Mental illness has plagued many communities, and if I can, in any instance, assist in that space, I want to take it.
BL: Seeing that you dabble in a lot of things, how do you maintain your well-being (physically and spiritually) so that you are able to continue to give the best of yourself, daily?
LM: I’m still battling to find a balance on that. I won’t lie, it is remarkably difficult at the best of times. A good support structure is essential, having people around you who can assist you when you need that extra boost.
Physically I try to eat as healthy as I can, as often as possible. I incorporate different exercise routines in my life, ranging from morning jogs, to gym, swimming, partaking in sports activities, as well as weekly EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation) training.
Spiritually, I keep my home centered, and I treat it as a sacred space with numerous soul-enriching elements in it. I also meditate quite often, that way, when I get home I keep in tune with my essence.
BL: What made you study psychology?
LM: Psychology was always my first choice before even getting into radio. However, at the time, I just felt I wasn’t mature enough to take it on.
Mental illness has plagued many communities and if there is an opportunity for me to assist in that space, I want to take it. Studying psychology equipped me with the relevant tools to help.
There is a shortage of black male psychologists in this country, and that could also explain why so many black men in our country are violent, misunderstood and troubled.
Some of the black men in this country are not doing as great as they should be, in my opinion, the young guys are caught up in drugs and alcohol. There is no need for that.
I believe there aren’t people in the psychological field who are like them, who have been through similar situations, who they can trust. I want to be that guy, a person who black men living with mental illness can trust and can come to, to get help and treatment.
BL: How do you use that psychology knowledge in your personal life?
LM: It allows me to understand, or at least, get a better sense of human behaviour. I can empathise more with people, get a sense of certain choices that I make, but also that of others.
It has opened my eyes to seeing numerous disorders that people live with, daily. Some are aware and others are unaware. I assist where I can, and more so, lead people to go and seek professional help.
BL: You also support SADAG. What inspired you to support the organisation?
LM: It has to do first with helping people, which is my calling — removing the stigma that is plaguing mental illness and bringing it out into the light.
Far too many people are suffering in darkness with either anxiety or depression, or both.
I’ve been there myself, and felt ashamed about it. But by staying silent, the deeper you will go into the illness, and the longer you stay with any illness untreated, the sicker you become.
All deaths break my heart, but suicide, that just rips me apart because it could have been prevented. I feel we all have a duty to one another, to be there and assist where we can.
It’s such a shame that depression and anxiety, if untreated, almost all the time can lead to suicide.
BL: What do you hope to change through your advocacy?
LM: I hope to make people understand that it is an illness. There are numerous ways that one can fall into depression, but the underlying theme is that it is a sickness. My message is not to the bystanders, but to the person who is trying to beat depression and anxiety, and I want to say to them that there is no shame in that, you are just sick, that’s it.
If you are sick, you get treatment. There are so many people in our communities who are suffering with a mental illness and either don’t know about it because they are self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, or are just too embarrassed to speak up and seek help.
Mental illness is preventing people from being the best versions of themselves. If we could all just understand that getting professional assistance in helping to deal with a mental illness is the first step to taking back your life and have more control of it.
I want to be the living proof of someone living with depression and anxiety, and who is facing them head-on. I too have my daily struggles, some days less than others, but I try with all my might to get up and beat this thing because I care about my life and my dreams and aspirations.
I think people living or suffering from mental illness should just care about one thing, themselves only, and getting better.
BL: As a black man, what do you think needs to happen in order to remove the stigma that mental illness carries?
LM: As Linda Mbuso, a black man, I think people living or suffering from mental illness should just care about one thing, themselves only, and getting better.
If you care about your life, you’ll do what is necessary to keep yourself healthy. I’ll tell you now; there is no quick fix to removing stigma, but there is a fix to keeping yourself healthy. If people shun you for being sick, well that is just a reflection on their ignorance.
The more people speak out about their mental illnesses and disorders, the more others will — chances are, there are many other people also suffering in silence. And if they all spoke up, we’d realise that half the nation has a mental illness of some sort.
BL: What do you think is the bigger responsibility that you carry as a young black man who works in the media?
LM: I think the biggest responsibility I have to carry is being blatantly truthful, unashamed, and unafraid to speak the actual truth about real living and situations that I have faced.
I want to show my failures and struggles, and not only the good and glamourous parts only. We are all testimonies. We live according to what we think is the best way to live for ourselves, and as a result, younger guys look up to us for visual cues on how they, too, should go about living their lives. We just have to be open, honest and show that it gets difficult, but those difficulties can be overcome.
BL: Lastly, what’s the bigger vision that you have for yourself?
LM: That always changes. But the current one is getting my PhD in psychology and being able to practise, using the media leverage I’ve got to reach a far wider audience.
I want to also want to publish books with mental illness treatment solutions for people who can’t afford treatment and normalise it [mental health] as much as I can by speaking about it as often as I can.
To seek help for depression contact SADAG (The South African Group and Anxiety) on: 0800 567 567
24hr Helpline: 0800 12 13 14
SMS 31393 (and they will call you back)