Radio – My lifesaver!

Finding my voice

by Sikelela Rollom, 21, youth reporter with Nkqubela FM in Nelson Mandela Bay
13 February 2024

Sikelela Rollom, is a 21-year-old youth reporter with Nkqubela FM in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape province UNICEF-supported mental health community radio dialogues.

Portrait of a smiling young woman

I have always been this loud, bubbly, jovial, kind, and outspoken young girl. I loved being around a crowd of people and making new friends. Until my world took a sudden shift after the passing of my stepfather. That man was everything to me, he always looked after me and made sure we were okay back at home.

It was hard for me to start imagining how life would be without him. After his burial, there was nothing that I looked forward to other than staying at home in my room and going to school. I had no one, besides my family and one friend. At this point, I encountered a lot of anxiety and depression. I was experiencing mental breakdowns on a regular basis.

This was my first realization of the existence of mental health challenges within myself. I began to only want to be alone and indoors, which worried my mother who would always check up on what I was up to in my bedroom. Nothing seemed to be exciting about life anymore.

I was in a very dark space, until I took the first step into doing what I have loved doing my whole life, which is broadcasting.

I was introduced to a team of young people called ‘Live Wire’ at Nkqubela FM, a community radio station situated in Gqeberha. This meant that I was now surrounded by other young people passionate about the broadcasting industry. Through this programme, I had to let go of my fears and shyness and become the talkative, cheerful, and joyful Sikelela that I once was.  

It was time to be lively, free, and looking forward to something exciting in life once again. Life took a total turn, and my emotions no longer suffered as they had done.

As young community reporters on radio, we were offered mental health training by Radio Workshop facilitators. After these lessons, we were required to inform our community about mental health. This led to me being more aware about the subject and feeling free to share my story about mental health challenges and hearing stories from my community as well.

I got to understand that I am not alone and that many other young people like me are also facing situations like trauma, loss, and sadness which affect their mental wellbeing.

Radio has played an immense role in me finding pleasure again in things that I used to and I am now in a good space mentally. I understand my emotions better and I am more aware of what mental health is. I believe that having good mental health is a process and while it can take time, you can eventually start feeling positive and be in charge of your thoughts and feelings.

UNICEF has been working with Radio Workshop to support young people to lead the mental health conversation and talk more freely about challenges to reduce stigma and shift the narrative.

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The UNICEF South Africa Blog provides a platform for children, young people and leading child rights experts, including UNICEF staff, to share their insights and opinions on child rights and wellbeing. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and may not necessarily reflect UNICEF's official position.

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