Only yahoos make fun of people who are mentally ill

MENTAL illness is no laughing matter.

MENTAL illness is no laughing matter.

As I write this, I have just come in from outside our offices in Rosebank after having seen a bunch of yahoos making fun of a fellow who has clearly lost his marbles.

It does seem as if the sick fellow is a product of a model C school. He speaks with a twang and clearly loves to parade himself as a model, lumping thick layers of make-up and lipstick on his pitch-black face, and strutting around in dangerously high heels as if on a ramp.

I hope I am not insulting him when I say nobody seems to know for sure if he is male or female. One thing certain, though, is that something has gone seriously wrong inside the head.

You need to have a heart of stone not to feel sorry, but the consoling factor is that he is forever in a cheerful mood - smiling, laughing, pepping-up the make-up and strutting proudly up and down.

I have said before in this column that mental illness has struck several times in my own family.

A dear, close childhood friend went nuts in his early teens.

Our paths split and it was years before I met him again.

His eyes were bloodshot and did not focus and saliva drooled from his fixed grin.

He had a large beard that fell almost to his stomach, long, unkempt hair into which he had stuck what looked like ostrich feathers.

I hugged him and asked after him.

He responded: "I am fine now. You know, I almost got mad."

My memory rewound to my dear friend a couple of months back when I met a woman in the neighbourhood of my family home in Mabopane, North West.

You have never seen a woman quaff as much alcohol and with such gusto - every hour of the day, every day.

Once she was said to be a pretty girl, but now she is all messed up: granny wrinkles, only a couple of rotting teeth left and hanging from her upper jaw like brown screws and a weather-beaten complexion.

She looks like she had been in a bad accident - what they call phuza face proper.

I was quite happy to see her, as she was to see me.

"You know my brother, I have stopped drinking. If I had not, I was going to become a s'botho (hobo)," she flashed me a genuinely happy smile, revealing the screwy remnants of her teeth.

I was happy for her and told her so.

I am also happy that my childhood friend is in a happy space - though the world thinks otherwise.

I am happy, too, that the fellow outside my office is allowed the freedom to enjoy his illusory life as a top-notch model.

The brother (or sister), just like you and me, is a child of the universe, fully deserving of a place under the sun.