He’s a gentle giant. Henceford Khoza towers over most people he meets, his handshake envelopes every digit and his smile is wider than a six-lane highway.
He’s a man on a mission to save society, one heart at a time.
Khoza uses funds generated from his butchery business in Johannesburg’s far northern suburbs and his influence as a radio presenter to propagate his message of kindness and hope.
He has made mental wellness his life’s mission, and this week formally launched a non-profit called the Global Institute of Emotional and Mental Wellness South Africa (GIMWA).
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In loose form, GIMWA has been operating since 2019, and it already employs a full-time social worker, has a network of support services available and a helpline that anyone in crisis can call, almost anytime.
Mental wellness has featured prominently in Khoza’s life. His sister suffers from bipolar disorder and he saw what she went through.
She was one of the lucky ones in his community with mental health difficulties who did get help.
But there are many whose suffering goes unnoticed, unchecked or simply and shamefully, ignored or ostracised.
“That’s my biggest mission, to eradicate the stigma around it and also fight for the rights of those that are struggling with mental health, because in most cases they tend to be discriminated against, abused and mistreated because of their illnesses.”
Khoza believes mental illness can take various shapes and it does not always have to be based around themes of depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety.
He said unchecked addictions like gambling, drug abuse and other habitual, negative behaviours are a cry for help, and that is what his organisation is there for.
“There is precious little in terms of resources for anyone regarding mental health in the townships. Add to that the stigma surrounding it and it’s a recipe for unnecessary pain, both for the people who suffer from it and their loved ones around them,” Khoza said.
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GIMWA has embarked on an awareness campaign in Tembisa, where his offices are based.
“We have developed a calendar that matches global days of health observation, and drawn from each the mental health challenges that may be faced too.
“We then produce literature, create workshops and spread the word as far and wide as we are able to. Awareness is critically important where negative connotations tend to overwrite any good intentions or someone’s ability to get help.”
Khoza reckons that in some way or another, everyone is facing mental and emotional challenges. He said that it’s evident just in the way that people have become more aggressive toward one another.
Road rage, he said, is on the increase and that’s just one of the many ways we seem to be more hostile toward our fellow humans these days.
A poor economy, inflation, soaring unemployment, post-pandemic stress, violence and crime all contribute to a state of being that’s not conducive to positivity as individuals and as a collective.
“You will see in the way a small child will speak to an elder in a disrespectful tone, very aggressive and hostile. And I think we can be better than that.”
Because of this increase in negative behaviour, he advocates for a return to traditional family values.
“Through lessening aggression, we could see a better society, especially if we all join hands and as a nation admit that we have a problem, and deal with it.”
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