Late mom's struggle spurs Ngidi's mental health drive

Happy Ngidi is giving talks to help fellow South Africans cope with mental illness.
Happy Ngidi is giving talks to help fellow South Africans cope with mental illness.
Image: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / John Liebenberg

Former Metro FM marketing manager Happy Ngidi is using the pain of seeing her late mother suffer from dementia to help other South Africans to cope with mental illness.

Ngidi is doing her bit by delivering talks around the country as part of her community development work and her next stop will be Southern Sun in Hyde Park, Joburg tomorrow, where everyone is invited.

She said she was inspired by her late mother, who suffered seven stages of dementia for nine years.

"I initially wanted to have this talk last month because it was mental health awareness month but I had to postpone it because of a tight schedule.

"This is me giving back to the community because in the period we watched our mother slowly lose her memory, we had no-one to talk to or anyone that could relate. No-one around us understood this kind of illness," she said.

The Proudly South African marketing manager said she realised while tending to her mother that most people in black communities still lacked information about mental health. She said she had to learn about the disease on her own - to understand it and to be able to help her mom.

"The disease consists of different stages, with stage one being about where you would regularly forget where you placed your car keys. By stage five, she could not recognise her own relatives. It hurt me so much because at some point she would not recognise me but recognised my husband.

"She started wearing adult nappies by stage six and stopped eating at stage seven because her nervous system could not sense that there was food in her mouth. Sad as it was, we knew it was a matter of time before she left us."

With the same inspiration, she is writing a book to be released in February next year.

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