Updated: Feb 9
Arching Eyebrow, a book about the mentally damaging experiences of S-MHA, a 28 year old African author from Motherwell in the Eastern Cape, which explores his transformation growing up and journey of self-development as he searches for a meaningful life, was launched in August. The book shares how S-MHA’s life has been affected by distorted mentalities and a dysfunctional family, as well as the confusion he experiences being brought up without a mother in this situation.
“I wanted to help individuals understand mental health better as many people are experiencing what I went through and I wanted break the stigma, normalizing conversation around this issue to improve South Africa’s mental health, while empowering mental health communities. I share experiences of my childhood, mentally damaging situations I came across and how they can take over an individual’s mind making them lose control of their ways, not knowing this pattern is setting them up for future failure,” says the author.
S-MHA says there is an African proverb that says ‘Kungaf 'intaka enkulu, amaqanda ayabola’ which translates to ‘Should the big bird die, the eggs rot’ which has stuck in his head since his mother died when he was 11 years old. He says he has been living an unstable life ever since as his father never supported his mother or her children, and his mother suffered abuse by his father until she died from HIV after she had been infected by his father.
“My father now has dementia which is a burden for myself and my siblings who have been taking care of him for the last six years. Many South African youth become dependent on substances from an early age because they are trying to escape their burdens and toxic behaviours of others which is causing fragmentation of communities in most of South Africa. I don’t want people to continue to normalize living this way as the youth are suffering due to living like this,” says S-MHA.
The author says he hopes to encourage those who misunderstand individuals suffering from mental health issues due to experiencing unpleasant behaviours in townships to reserve judgments about their actions. He says mentally damaging activities youth go through may include child abuse, gender-based violence and crime in the townships with situations often starting when mothers are bullied and abused by irresponsible fathers who don’t support their wives and children, setting their family up for failure in future. “Many of us often rely on generalized opinions about places, people and moments we have never even experienced, but it is not always a choice of why people become who they are and sometimes there is an external force helping cause unpleasant behaviours, ruining people’s lives and society. Mental health communities are important in helping solve the country’s mental state by teaching about how brain development and physiology of a child is affected by early adversity until the adult stage where they become dangerous to themselves and society,” says the author. According to S-MHA, the passive attitude from South African leadership towards the nation is depressing and he says if these issues are ignored, society is setting itself up for failure in future, but mental health communities can help bring peace within individuals and society. He says African history is filled with mentally damaging activities practiced on children who had to live their lives, contributing to society with untreated mental conditions, becoming the criminals of today. S-MHA says we have to deal with these situations in the home causing youth mental conditions they are sometimes not even aware of, negatively affecting their decision-making skills and blocking them from their goals because it is damaging the economy and society. He says this book gives insight into mental health issues South Africans faces and shares the causes of mentally damaging experiences many African parents had to live with until 1994, when Nelson Mandela was elected as the first black president of a country no longer ruled by racial laws and discrimination. Arching Eyebrow discovers the results of the history of South Africa shown through the author’s life who was raised by parents who grew up during the apartheid era and the importance of freedom and liberation in helping encourage peace among all races in South Africa to gain unity. It deals with how complex freedom can be, explaining the endless possibilities freedom can offer, while still contradicting itself, and shares how complete freedom of one group can violate the freedom of others because when one group is free, often another group is not free.
“The book covers how systems of control, rooted in old patterns of human civilization, aim to control humanity and the system of control by South Africa's leadership is affecting the mentality of its citizens, especially the youth. Individuals of different races need to take other races seriously. Relying on your own race for the truth of a meaningful life and ignoring other races telling the truth about circumstances is an issue in South Africa. Envy towards other races is being normalized by a system of control, but we must avoid it. We set ourselves up for failure when we are obedient to a system of control,” says S-MHA.