’Dramatic increase’ in young and old wanting to cover up self-harm scars with tattoos
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For the past few years, Sibusiso Dlamini and Ndumiso Ramate have been noticing a worrying trend at their popular tattoo parlour in Soweto.
The owners of Soweto Ink, located in the heart of the vibey township, have seen a drastic increase in customers wanting to cover up self-harm scars on their bodies.
While Dlamini and Ramate are more than happy to help their customers, they are incredibly concerned at the huge increase in numbers of South Africans – young and old – who are self-harming.
“Our fellow black brothers and sisters are going through the most, without any support structure or people to talk to and added to that is the problem of families stigmatising mental health,” said Dlamini.
“When they show you their scars, they are not proud of what they’re doing, but they are going through a lot.”
Dlamini and Ramate knew they had to do something to raise awareness on mental health.
So they took the opportunity during Mental Health Awareness Month last month to start their own campaign.
The partners in one of the very few black-owned tattoo parlours in the country, offered free services to cover up all self-harm scars in the hope of restoring people’s confidence and hopefulness.
They have also teamed up with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) to raise awareness around mental health.
Through their initiative, the parlour wants to make a change in their past memories and give their clients new memories to look at and be proud of.
Dlamini and Ramate want to help their clients overcome their current situation of mental health and depression challenges with the campaign, which is aimed at breaking the silence of those suffering.
“We want people to gain their life back and move on from old memories through the art of a tattoo,” said Ramate
Having kicked off their campaign last month, the duo have already helped around 20 clients.
“We are planning to assist and help as many people as possible,” said Ramate.
“We’re still receiving an influx of emails of people who need assistance and plan to continue with it.”
In order to choose the clients they would assist, they asked those interested to post their personal stories on Youtube and allowing them to share their stories and start a conversation about mental health.
“The Youtube Channel will be the space we create a visual message and content to our followers.
“It will help others speak out, tell their stories and share the moment of creating new memories,” said Ramate.
Ramate and Dlamini said they’ve come across many horrific stories.
“We heard a lot of stories based on gender-based violence rape cases and others being neglected by family.
“It’s stories you wouldn’t wish for any human being,” says Dlamini.
“All the stories we handled were very touching in different and similar ways, so everyone we came across, we felt very compelled to assist, especially with rape and gender-based violence cases.
“Going through all these stories in the shop and on social media we knew that we needed to do everything we possibly can to assist.”
Dlamini and Ramate says they hope their campaign will assist people in regaining their confidence.
“When we cover those scars for people, it brings a smile and their self-confidence back and they no longer have to explain why they have scarred themselves,” said Ramate.
“It’s part of giving back to our brothers and sisters who cry for help and cannot afford our service and also going through a healing journey.”
Dlamini and Ramate said the feedback has been good so far.
“A number of our clients have told us that it has helped bring their self-confidence back,” says Ramate.
“Some are still going through a healing journey so it’s still early to tell if the campaign has assisted them mentally.”
Aside from their own campaign, the duo have urged all South Africans to place more emphasis on mental health and for both young and old to start conversations.
“Not enough emphasis is placed on mental health in our country,” said Dlamini.
“We really need to put more emphasis on reaching out and also have coping mechanisms for people who are in a bad mental space.