Exploring mental health among creatives

Solly Sebotso, Mpho Sebina teamed up with Danish producer J Spliff on a song ‘Troubled’ to raise awareness on mental health


Inspired to drive open conversations among creative people around mental health, traditional four-string guitar artist Solly Sebotso, Mpho Sebina and Danish producer J Spliff have created a lead single dubbed “Troubled.”
The song forms part of the Heartstrings & Heartbeats campaign, which is a two-year multi-stakeholder public engagement project aimed at exploring the science behind mental health issues among creatives while placing communities and those impacted as drivers of their own solutions. “Most of the challenges that we face are centred around mental health,” says Project Manager and founder of the Infers Group, Abraham Mamela.

“If we approach these challenges from a point of mental soundness, we might save a lot, including reducing the health bill. It is important to note that by ‘creative’ we don’t mean just the creative arts; it covers innovation and developmental spaces. Now that COVID-19 has affected the entire economy, we are likely to see many households getting affected by mental health due to many challenges such as unemployment and losing loved ones.”

The first phase of the Heartstrings & Heartbeats campaign is about fostering cultural relations between Danish and local artists that will culminate in a campaign to raise awareness among the public and inform research. Mamela says their intention is to generate a lot of data that reflects different behavioural patterns about mental health from our culture or day-to-day challenges. They will be working with scientists from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Botswana to look at the generated data in an unorthodox approach in order to find ways of co-creating solutions, knowledge and better understanding of mental health issues.

“In the long run, we will incrementally build the project to facilitate the exchange of culture and knowledge between the global north and south, thus facilitating creative works and research,” says Mamela. “This will not only see creative people working together but also ensure scientists share research and knowledge on providing solutions to mental health.”

He notes that mental health is generally ignored in Botswana, an assertion that he says is supported by several scholarly papers that indicate this for Africa, including Botswana where this can be seen from the number of mental health facilities available and where one big indicator is that only one town is known to provide support for mental health. Mamela says this has created something of a stigma for Lobatse, the town whose name has become synonymous with mental health in a mildly bemused way.

“I suggest that we need to work together to spreading the message that so that every city will have such facilities,” he says. “We must think of ways of having support for mental health in primary health care and of providing support at workplaces so as to normalise the fact that having mental health challenges is something that can happen to anybody.

“Lobatse can be transformed into a city that hosts the best facilities and research into mental health. That means we can think about having a centre of excellence on mental health. I suggest we also think about a national mental health strategy that has a holistic approach to every effort that we make in the country because it affects our economic performance in every sector.”