Linda Mbuso’s on a mission to destigmatise mental illness

5FM radio host, Linda Mbuso (30), has been very outspoken about mental illness and with a degree in psychology, he hopes to help end the suffering.

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 connect and have insightful conversations with his listeners.  He has now cultivated a cult following as the host of “5Fm Nights”, every Monday to Thursday (7-10pm) on 5 Fm.

Born in Pimpville (Soweto), he had his first introduction to radio as the 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,” shares Linda.

“If someone felt down, I could be the person to uplift their mood, and be a companion and friend to whatever activity they were partaking in.”

Apart from radio, Linda is also a TV presenter, writer, voice over artist and PR & Social Media Manager. But the star has a greater intention with his life. He hopes to use his degree in Psychology to help heal people with 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 illnesses.

Blacklight had a chat with the radio host about his life and his commitment to help eradicate the stigma attached to mental illness.

“Studying psychology will equip me with the relevant tools to help others.”

Blacklight: What has being in the entertainment industry taught you about the kind person you want to be and who you don’t want to be?
Linda Mbuso: Being in this entertainment industry I want to be a person who can be approached, a person who can be relatable and one who people will want to share and trust their life stories with.

It’s 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 on radio it doesn’t have to make that be all that I am, I can still just be me. If I were to stop working on radio, I’d still want to have an identity.

Blacklight: As a radio personality, what do you hope to impart to your listeners everytime you get the privilege of going on air?
Linda Mbuso:
I use myself as the 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 – and by being open to that and showcasing how we should all treat each other by the way I treat the listeners.

I want that to then resonate through the pole 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.

Blacklight: Seeing that you dabble in a lot of things career-wise, how do you maintain your well-being (Physically and spiritually) so that you are able to continue to give the best of yourself, daily?
Linda Mbuso: 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 eat as healthily as I can as often as possible. I incorporate different exercise routines in my life, ranging from morning jogs, going to gym, swimming, partaking in sport activities as well as weekly EMS training. Spiritually, I keep my home centered and treat it as a sacred space, with numerous soul enriching elements in it. I meditate quite often, that way, when I get home, I keep in tune with my essence.

Blacklight: What made you want to explore psychology?
Linda Mbuso:
Psychology was always my first choice before getting into radio, I just felt I wasn’t mature enough at the time to take it on.

Mental illness has plagued many communities and if there is any opportunity for me to assist in that space, I want to take it. Studying psychology will equip 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 being caught up in drugs and alcohol, there is no need for that.

There aren’t people in the psychological field who are like them, who have been through similar situations, they can trust. I want to be that guy, a person who black men with mental illnesses can trust and who they can come to and get help and treatment from.

Blacklight: How do you use that psychological knowledge in your personal life and in your career?
Linda Mbuso: 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 aware and other’s unaware and being able to assist where I can, and more so lead people to go and seek professional help.

“I too have my daily struggles.”

Blacklight: You also support SADAG (The South African Depression and Anxiety Group). What inspired you to support the organisation?
Linda Mbuso:  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. If you stay silent, the more deeper you go into the illness – and the longer you stay with any illness untreated, the more sick you become.

It’s such a shame that depression and anxiety, if untreated, almost all the time can lead to suicide. 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.

Blacklight: Many black people still don’t want to be associated with anything related to mental illness. What do you hope to change through your association with the group?
Linda Mbuso:
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.

There is nothing remarkable about me really, I don’t want to say “If I can do it so can you”, but rather I want people to look at me and see me doing my best in things that I care about, and they should know that both me and you are facing the same illness in our heads. I just work really hard at living well and doing the necessary work, despite this illness.

I think people living or suffering with mental illness should just care about one thing, themselves and getting better.

Blacklight: As a black man, what do you think needs to happen in order to remove the stigma that we have put on anything related to mental illness?
Linda Mbuso:
As Linda Mbuso, a black man, I think people living or suffering with mental illness should just care about one thing, themselves 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 so many other people suffering in silence and if they all spoke up, we’d realise that half the nation has a mental illness of some sort. The stigma is being reiterated by people who also probably have some mental issue of their own too, and are just too afraid to deal with it or fix it.

Blacklight: What do you think is the bigger responsibility that you have to carry as a young black man in the entertainment industry?
Linda Mbuso:
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. If that were to happen, so many people, especially the younger guys, would see themselves in me, and understand that there is nothing wrong with who they are.

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 you for visual cues on how they too should go about living their lives. We just have to be open, and honest and show that it gets difficult, but those difficulties can be overcome.

Blacklight: Lastly, what’s the bigger dream you have for yourself?
Linda Mbuso: That always changes. But the current one is getting my Phd in Psychology and being able to practice. Using the media leverage I’ve got to then reach a far wider audience to help people too. I want to fill main stream media and also publish books with mental illness treatment solutions for people who can’t afford it, and normalise it 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)

You can follow Linda on:
Instagram: Lindambuso
Twitter: Lindambuso

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