A Mrs SA semi-finalist, whose golf champion father committed suicide four years ago has spoken out for the first time about the agonising ordeal to help break the stigma around mental illness and to urge those struggling with stress, anxiety and depression to reach out for help immediately.
Wayne Westner died age 55 after battling depression for years. Westner won 14 pro titles, excelled on the European tour, and was about to conduct work with the PGA when he took his life.
“My father was a champion, both on and off the golf course.
“It’s excruciating to think that such a successful man was fighting such deep demons.
“This is how powerful mental illness is.
“It can affect anyone. My dad’s passing broke our hearts and I don’t want other families to go through the same thing,” she said Mrs SA semi-finalist, Chane Todd.
Todd has broken her silence about her father who shot himself following an incident at the family's home in Pennington, KwaZulu-Natal in 2017. She hopes that she can help break the stigma and the fear of getting help by telling her father’s story.
“Had he sought help, things may have been different.
“When depression overcomes us, we may feel vulnerable with no way out.
“We simply must seek professional help immediately.
“Reaching out may not only save lives but could also be life-changing for the better,” she said.
Statistics released in May 2019 by The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that globally, an estimated 264 million people suffer from depression, which is one of the leading causes of disability.
Research also reveals that over 40% of people living with HIV in South Africa have a diagnosable mental disorder.
Westner’s passing made headlines around the world, he had written a letter to the family sharing that he was consumed by negative thoughts and emotions.
Todd said: “If only he had reached out.
“There is a stigma associated with depression and poor mental health. I desperately want to help break the stigma and get people talking about this disease which affects around one in six South Africans.
“My dad’s family had a history of mental illness, but we were unaware of the severity of his condition.
“He told us he was managing when, in fact, he had slipped into deep depression and was contemplating ending his life.
“His mental well-being was no longer at the top of his mind. We realised this when it was too late.”
According to The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), the impact of Covid-19 and its lockdown restrictions has led to an increase in the number of calls that the organisation has been receiving from people showing signs of depression.
Making such conversation important in fighting stigma around mental health.
“We’re living isolated lives due to the pandemic.
“It affects us all emotionally and mentally.
“We must invest in self-love and self-care, especially during these times.
“This includes sharing our struggles with friends and family and taking the best possible care of our own health,” said Todd.
Todd, who competes for the Mrs SA title later this year, urged the public to talk about mental well-being and to seek help from groups such as the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) or asking a mental health professional for help. “Asking for help can save lives. I urge the public struggling with this illness to reach out now,” she said.
Sadag has a mental health line on 011 234 4837, and an online toolkit on www.sadag.org, with free resources, online videos, reliable resources, coping skills, online tools and info on social distancing, self-isolation, etc.
Chat online with a counsellor seven days a week from 9am-4pm via the Cipla WhatsApp chat line on 076 882 2775.