Share this article:
Jess Robus is a brave 14-year-old.
In this time where mental health among youngsters is of growing concern, she shares her personal struggle with mental health in With A Few Slivers of Light.
While not many are comfortable talking about their experience, this teenager, who struggled with depression and anxiety for two years, wants to help others in a similar situation.
In her book, which is a collection of poems, the young writer chronicles her own journey of accepting and dealing with the challenges she has faced as a teenager in a world where mental health is rising at an alarming rate, especially among the youth.
Robus says though she’s an avid reader and a poet, writing a book was never part of her immediate plans.
“The collection is taken from my journals and the notes I’ve written on my phone.
“After compiling the book and seeing the journey held within it I decided to publish the book to share my journey with others and give words to those who feel like they can’t express them,” she explains.
She adds, “The title comes from one of the last poems in the book but over and above that it refers to times when sometimes it feels like there are only a few slivers of light in a dark world to getting to a place when you can see that those slivers of light can become a rainbow.
“It’s about finding the emotions that bring light and how they overcome the feelings of darkness that can become oppressive.”
The teenager hopes the book will inspire young people and adults alike to normalise talking about mental health issues.
“When I was struggling with anxiety I wrote poetry as a way to process my emotions and the world around me.
“I’ve experienced the effects that untreated mental struggles can have in a person’s life and so I decided to publish these poems so that others can see that mental illnesses are real and valid.
“My hope is that people struggling with the same will relate to them and use them as a way to open discussions where previously they may not have done so, especially teenagers.”
The book explores other themes including toxic relationships, identity, self-love, self-expression and inner strength.
The Joburg-based star says she hopes her book will spark the much-needed conversation around mental health, which is still taboo in many South African cultures.
“The past 15 months of the pandemic have been challenging for young people and I believe the youth are struggling with a wide range of emotional and social issues.
“I believe that opening the conversation for these topics to be discussed is more important now than ever before. Mental anxiety amongst the youth is real!”
Interestingly, Robus wears many hats. She’s a singer, songwriter and musical theatre aficionado.
“Music, theatre and musical theatre hold a very special place within my heart. I love to perform and have had a few opportunities to perform some of my own songs over the past couple of years.
“I love the freedom and emotional expression that comes with writing and performing as well as the sense of community found within theatre people,” says Robus.
Touching on the upcoming Youth Day commemorations, the youngster says she’s got “absolute respect” for the Youth of ’76.
“The youth of 1976 stood up and made their voice heard. They stood together as a group and made a difference. Changing our world one person at a time is difficult but if we stand together we can move mountains,” she says.
This Youth Month, the young writer says she plans to have as many conversations as possible about mental health awareness.
“In this way, I will continue to use my voice as they did theirs,” she adds.
“A Few Slivers of Light” is available at leading bookstores and online