Depression – The mysterious death of Prof. Bongani Mayosi


By Sbusiso Nkala    06-Aug-2018 18:45 UTC+02:00

The startling death of Prof. Mayosi has raised much attention around the subject of depression. Conversations surrounding the tragic death of an icon, and a pioneer who has made great contributions to the public health sector has placed emphasized demand on the already excessive death toll.

In my comprehensive expression, I will make correlated reference to social media in highlighting its impacts and more so, its contributions to what has popularly become recognized as an actual biological disease.

Clinical depression has been commonly established as a mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. Major depression has also been widely acknowledged as a disease with no real cause, but many different triggers.  This to me testifies that all of us are heirs to this nightmare of a disease, whether or not we prefer it. Given its trigger sensitive activation, the function of the disease also sounds to me the tune of no more than an emotion being induced by input, which in turn provokes thought that furthermore generates a feeling.

I have closely observed multiple leading articles circulating the web, of views and tributes following the tragic passing of Prof. Mayosi. These sources mainly point out how different sources have chosen to regard depression and categorize its impressionable buzz. Popular articles of analysis amidst the top trending have defined it impacts as those of an unchangeable and irreversible fate, and a “condition that commands absolute submission from its victim”.

Depression has been labelled, more so lately than ever before, an incurable disease. Some sources have gone as far as alluding that even in typical cases of suicide, be it drug OD or whatever the victim may inflict upon themselves, that those cases in outcome be exempted from being labelled the cause of death, but for the depression (motivation) to be identified as the direct cause of death.

So if somebody in an attempt to rid themselves off of life, is to tip over a pack of 40 tablets into their mouth and succeed in the attempt, we are advised and recommended to identify that as “someone that is killed by depression”, and regard not the liberty they may have taken upon themselves in making the decision and taking actions towards it.

I believe that this is irresponsible thinking, and feel that the sanctioning of this type of therapeutic counsel being publicized so aggressively is exactly what lies behind the rampant statistics of “death by depression”. 

Social Media

Social media as the pioneer of depression, has played a pivotal role in perpetuating the disaster. Understand my standpoint, I am no “hater” of technology and I am certainly all for its communication eccentricities. Technology through apps and such like communications platforms has indeed presented much needed effects and efficiencies for society, and continues to pave a way for speedily growing worldwide productivity. Social media however, is not the same thing and carries far reaching consequences. Media platforms are a thing of the norm and have existed for nearly as long as I can remember. Examples of media channels would be cable TV, magazines, newspapers and day to day news (in its accuracy). “Social media” on the other hand, in its recent conception, has marked the very beginning of a totally new wiring. Social media, unlike conventional media, is media created by society as a community of social beings, for the purpose of modelling reality the way we please, even if fake and unreal. This is the act of literally twisting normality in presenting a false sense of standard and setting an absurdly artificial benchmark for society to compete. Social media as an exhibition platform, has motivated and upskilled mere human beings in their “pretending ability” and as a byproduct of this relentless notion, has created an ever growing appetite for social validation.

Social media not only allows us to publicize false impressions, but also capacitates us with a dangerously corrosive level of freedom of speech. Dangerous in the sense that content created and distributed can be as effective as the threats of “harmful programing” but isn’t screened or controlled like it is on cable TV, and regulated by policymakers. Social media allows for us to promote and vouch for faulted perspectives, only on the grounds that these views may resonate with whatever we may be feeling at the time we encounter them.

This relationship between society and social media breathes life into deceiving mentalities like that of “the blind leading the blind”. An inferiorly compromising cause can now ripple across the globe and impact the vulnerable minded within hours, and social media allows for such disruption to take place with absolutely no control measures nor accountability processes.

Now that is harmful programming!

The greatest fault in this circuit is the minds inability to separate wrong from right beyond its “source code”.

I often liken the processes of the mind to those of a computer, one that is capable of whatsoever you program it to do.

I also liken then, (within context) social media to a computer program, coded as an algorithm; one running on activity stimuli of experiences and inputs that all produce chemicals and cause chemical reactions. Disclaimer: However Unlike human beings, computers do not produce chemicals and derive emotional reactions from them.

Understand that depression, in scientific terms is explained as a chemical imbalance. That means the mind can adjust and produce chemicals through impressions made in and out. Constantly so. Dopamine as mentioned before, is assumingly the counter hormone or chemical to the one that brews to create a depressive state.

Dopamine is a chemical released by neurons to send signals to other nerve cells. The chemical is produced by the mind during self-validating moments/activities such as sexual intercourse. Sex being like a reward for labor, is perceived by the mind as an optimum validation reward for worthiness.

It would then be fair to associate counterproductive chemicals with moments/encounters of disapproval or disappointment. Disapproval which sits right on the farther opposing plane to validation is what social media consistently sets us up for.

Unlike computers, we are adaptive indeed, but because of our dependent nature on emotions we are unable to harvest true fulfillment from pretense. The validation we receive on social media through high response rate in the currency of likes often grant a temporary & unreliable satisfaction before reality sets in and daunts the head environment, and then another fix is due but the effects erode further than the previous temp solution.

Often unable to differentiate between fake and real through the lens of someone else’s “life display”, we are left with a pretty unrealistic idea of life and normality to gauge from.

This is when depression occurs. A real life is no match for a fake life, no matter how good a case of a real life it may be.

 A closer look at the suicide of Prof. Mayosi

As proclaimed by media, and social media; Prof. Mayosi was a man of absolute nobility. From a tender age he has been mentioned to have always been a person to always get the approval stamp from society.

I would imagine that for the longest time he sailed on heightened levels of dopamine for the 1st 3 quarters of his life, so much supply that he was operating at an advantage to his peers and colleagues.

Having gotten the right mix to a formula for excellence at all times, Prof. Mayosi doesn’t only display victory in his work but as proof points out, he does an equally prevalent job within the area of personal life too.

So his career scales and up goes his footprint, as he makes his mark and spreads his seed.

His brother in law during his expression and tribute to the deceased even referenced a moment when the medical Guru had bought his sister (his widowed wife) a car and on that day she crashed it by accident. Now unlike a normal person would react, Prof. apparently reacted in a shockingly unorthodox context and spoke in a mellow tone and not even directly in a tense remorse, his response was said to be “perfectly understanding”.

So here we have it, a real life mastermind, someone always on the right side of the playing field and did it better as he levelled up. Other witnesses also stated that “he could’ve been a millionaire many times over”, and comments surrounding that statement point at his selfless character and his soft spot for the poor.

Hang on however, what happens when this unnoticed conduct goes so unnoticed that this humble character earns himself the chair of a Dean in a schooling environment deemed socially racist (unfavorably so)?

Prof. Mayosi had come to be known by both the authorities that ordained him and the poor/marginalized people as a victor and a hero respectively.  Little must he have known that this time more than ever, he was at the peak, yet utmost sensitive part of his journey to an entire Dean.

Defaulting unknowingly as mediator between student demands and control measures of policyholders, Prof. Mayosi begins to taste the inevitable fate of backstabbing disapproval.

Having been on the right side of the law his entire life, trying to jigsaw between competency at work and defender to the marginalized implicates him and exposes him to volatilities unknown to his tender being.

Being unable to meet the high standard of his impressionable background, his self-esteem dwindles into the hands of bullyism, uncertainty and disappointment. His very life in this sudden epoch is brought to questioning. Prof. Mayosi suddenly questions the very purpose of his long commenced pursuit and feels like he was divinely setup.

This is where I would say Prof. Mayosi crossed paths and settled into depression.

Unwiring depression

So now that depression appears to be more a wiring, and much like a short circuit in the mind. I will propose a slightly different antidote from the conventional treatment.

Abandoning the norm, and capsizing standards might be the only way to wrestle this beast and come out tops.

Many of the few cases of how people conquer depression often revolve around a resetting of paradigms and just the deviating from a normal pattern of experiences.

I’m no expert doctor or scientist so I won’t place too much emphasis on the solubility of my antidote.

However I want to confidently wire you to believing that depression is not beyond you, and you can conquer it. You are not at the mercy of this bully, you are the master.

Be strong, and stay far away from the standards set by hypocrites, for they don’t even adhere to their own rules.


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  1. Lee says:

    It is also possible that it was just midlife crisis that caused his depression. His daughters recently graduated, one got married in April, the other one is engaged and recently moved to Joburg >> empty nest syndrome.

  2. Amanda says:

    Although a possibility, comparison is not the sole cause of depression. I don’t think a man of his age and caliber could succumb to such anyway

  3. Realeboga says:

    Quite an interesting and thought provoking article. I do indeed believe that we can all succumb to social pressures regardless of age especially if we have positioned ourselves in a specific way/manner in society(regardless of the size or type of environment)

    Human beings are social beings who construct themselves in a certain way to fit a particular description within society. Professor Mayosi obviously valued the way he was perceived by society, be it through social media or the general public. He was what people would term “a good man”. Everything he did was for the greater good and if it meant that in the process he could gain a “good reputation” then all the better for him.

    Now I think what this article is trying to point out is the influence and power that society can have. He had constructed himself in a certain way that would make him “accepted” by society as a man who was good and only did good. So as soon as the environment changed he lost the very essence of living as he lived to be good. He was now being seen as a “sell-out” by his students and his colleagues felt like he was not doing such a good job. “Society” had now changed its mind about how it views him. He was no longer on the “good” side of the spectrum. Society had now tainted what he had practically spent his whole life building

    Interesting perspective.

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