Part 2: Surviving the ocean of depression

Hi. We are young people living here in Adelaide, who came to Australia as refugees. Many of us have known times of great sorrow, or worry. Times when we have lost hope. Some of us have nearly drowned in the ocean of depression. We want to share with you some of the ways we have survived. 

Water can bring you fresh ideas

It’s very hard to start your life again from zero. There are a lot of problems that can make you worried, anxious and depressed about your future and about your family.  I was missing so much my extended family and friends back in my home country. I heard from elders in our society quite a while ago that water can mentally bring you fresh ideas and can help you forget hard times. So when my problems and worries were mounting and mounting in front of me, I tried to go to the beach sometimes twice or more in a week. While I was there by the sea I would listen to music and this really helped me to think and feel fresh. Each time I came home from the beach I found I could encourage my brother, sister and mother to think positively and focus on the future. I could show them how much I enjoyed my day. My brother and mother had been prescribed tablets by their GP because they were unable to sleep. One day I took my family to the Semaphore beach with lunch that we prepared in our home. We met a family at the beach that day and we are still good friends. After my brother and mother started to go to the beach and meet some other families, they didn’t need the medication anymore.

We wrote a song and made a video clip about how water can bring you fresh ideas. You can watch this here:



Making my body tired so my mind could forget
When I came to Australia about a year ago, I had problems with my English language, finding work, and getting to school, because I was away from school for more than two years. I was also responsible of my family. All these factors made my days and time worse and worse. Most often I was thinking hopelessly and was depressed all the time. One day, I went to a ground in Glengowrie and saw some people playing cricket.  I asked them, ‘Can I play cricket with you?’ and they kindly accepted. Soon I was coming to this ground regularly and this really helped me to forget my problems. When my body was tired and needed to rest, I no longer needed medications, and my mind could forget. Gradually my confidence started to come back and now I am making too much progress towards my dreams. I also scored my first century last weekend!


Life studies
I thought that when I was in Australia, I would learn to speak English in six months and then finally start university. But life is not so simple. When I got here I learned I would have to go back to high school and that this would take three more years. It was like going back to zero. I already finished high school in Iran! Negative things like this can get you down. They can steal your confidence. They can bring disappointment and make you think of yesterday. It is easy to become withdrawn. And so hard to leave the house. Then I realised that at high school I would not only be doing secondary studies (which I had completed in Iran), I would also be doing life studies. I would be learning about life and perhaps what I learned could also help others. This has now come true.

The most important thing I have learned through these life studies is patience. There is a saying in our culture, ‘you cannot travel 1000 miles in a single night’. This is a helpful phrase. During this period of life studies, I am learning patience.

I have also learnt the importance of having more than one goal. As well as having your main hope, have another one, a smaller one, at the same time. This will mean that after every failure there remains a hope of success. Not everyone can be a doctor, dentist or engineer. Doctors and dentists need patients, and sometimes the patients’ jobs are just as important or even more important. Every engineer needs labourers to make the buildings. Society needs all of us together.

These two learnings from my life studies, about patience and about always having more than one goal, are ways of surviving when you are making a new life.


Being near older people
If I feel I cannot stand up anymore, to be near an older person helps me get back on the track of life. I spend time with an older friend of the family. He is 50 or 60 years old. He has lived through so much.


Remembering and learning from my ancestors
I have not seen my motherland, but I never forget my ancestors. I have read so much about them, about their suffering and their achievements. When they are happy, I am happy. When they are sad, I am sad. I have read so many history books about Afghanistan. We can learn from the failures of history and also from the successes. What made certain kingdoms rise, then crash and disappear? We can learn from our ancestors and then apply these learnings in our own lives, here and now. From this history, I have learnt about respecting people from different societies, cultures and religions. When you respect others, they respect you as well. This respect builds friendships. Friendships lead to harmony. Harmony brings peace. This is what I have learnt from the history of Afghanistan. This is what I have learned from our ancestors. These learnings give me guidance.


What is your passion?
If we know someone is drowning in an ocean of depression, we have to help them. I try to find my friends’ passion and then give them the tools to put their passion into action. I had a friend who was really struggling in school. It was really getting him down. But I knew that back in Afghanistan he had skills. I encouraged him to use these skills to become an electrician, to get a certificate, to get a job and set up his own business. He didn’t have to stay in school to do this. He could find another pathway for his passion. Now he’s earning good money and laughs at me for still being in school. We are both following our passions.


Taking action
There is something I find confusing here. Our Government leads people into depression and then tries to assist them out again. Surely we must stop leading people into depression. I am a Youth Ambassador for Children Out of Immigration Detention. We can take action together to prevent other people’s depression.

These are some of the ideas and skills that are helping us to survive the ocean of depression.

After each darkness there is light. After each night there is day.


If you are drowning, we hope these words reach out to you. 

Rapping our way out of depression
KK The Rapper (South Sudanese rapper Kuol Kuol)


There was a point in my life when I was going through depression. One night, I got home and was not feeling too well. I was going to try to sleep, hoping it would go away, but then I stopped and started to write lyrics on my phone. The writing turned into a rap.


We all know the rain never lasts FOuRever
Seasons come and go
So wouldn’t you rather agonise now,
Then later on obtain pleasure/happiness


Some people want to hear the good news first. But I’d rather hear the bad news first. Suffer now, experience the agonies now, and then later on obtain happiness. The words I found that night told me that pain and agony will not last forever.

I found words and then I reached out to people. When I shared this rap with one of my friends, he broke down in tears. He could relate to it. It helped him to think about his next move.


And so the mission begins
The highs got you feeling so great
but the lows got you
Doubting your existence


In sharing the words, I felt like my purpose was bigger than just me. I realised I can help to motivate others. I started finding words and turning them into rap three years ago. Most rap is about jewellery, cars, money and girls, but I’d rather write something else. My favourite artist is J Cole. His work tries to help others with stress, race and political issues. That puts a smile on my face.

This also has a lot to do with South Sudan. Our struggle is motivation. Our struggle is where most of us have come from. And my biggest hope is to get my mum out of the struggle. I am motivated by her pain. I grew up with tribal conflicts but I have always seen us as one. I wrote a rap in Dinka about this. It’s called Panda, which means ‘our land’ in Dinka. It means a lot to me to exercise the language.

My lyrics are not too plain. I try to put it in a creative way, to use metaphor to rhyme in different languages. When I listen to Dinka songs, I realise our people have been using metaphor for generations. I use metaphor but in rap to encourage my friends to analyse the situation and to weigh the options. We’re finding words to rap our way out of depression and to make something of ourselves.    


Part 3: eight survival tips for when life is full of drama

This Post Has 21 Comments

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  6. Sandra Owen

    I enjoyed the concept of water as for me I find I can stand and look out over the sea and soak in the air and scene that embodies my inner peace. Life moves forward as I breathe in and out. As I walk along the beach I walk through the issues that are troubling my mind. So when they suggested going to the water I understood their advice. It works for me.

  7. Bonnie Borchardt

    I love the water too. I live near a large lake in Canada, Lake Huron that once was a salt sea. We harvest the salt and are proud to say we’re the biggest salt mine in the world. I’m not sure that’s true but it reminds me that the salt like our tears are precious. I often cry as I walk beside the lake and see others crying too. Its a place to go to find peace from our sorrow. I watch the beautiful sunset and am reminded that God sees me and blesses this day and makes a new one for us, a new beginning every day. Thank you for sharing your tears and hope with us.

  8. TeriLucas

    I love the ocean too. I find it soothing to walk along the beach, and just leave all your worries in the sea if you can. Thank you for making these excellent videos. I am sure they will be of assistance to all who may be struggling. I wish you every continued success in life.

  9. Patricia

    I liked the simple strategies the young people spoke about , things dont have to be complicated and you can create the self care that suits you and your situation
    I also liked what the rapper kuol kuol had to say
    that pain and agony wont last long then you can be happy , I hope his message gets through to other young people going through their own pain and agony to lead them to their happiness


    Water is full of changes from rough to ripples, flowing, clear, dark, small waves ,crashing waves, our physical body is made up of alot of water and it makes m wonder how this is connected. I took away Patience and the idea of people having many small goals, rather than one. We never fail, we just get the chance to try again each time.

  11. RoseGwassa

    I really loved reading on “making my body tired, so my mind can forget”. This made me remember how doing other things can help someone pass through a difficult moment.I got married at a younger age, immediately after graduating College, i had not secured employment by then. And in a short time i was blessed with the twin babies, My husband who was also a life begginer become our only hope for survival. It was a difficult moment, which left me with no option than ‘depression’ But i remember how i started gradually to soak myself into house chores and caring for my children, i made it possible to never stand or sleep the whole day, by the time i went to bed it was a peaceful and heavy sleep. I say this has been my way of dealing with depression and i find it useful, since it limits my time to stay idle and start to think for the things which are beyond my ability. Thank you very much i thought it was an inappropriate way of dealing with depression until i read this. Thank you for reminding me that always people respond even in difficult moments.

  12. Munir

    Salaam and Thank you.

    You have gifted us with powerful insights filled with wisdom and courage, through your stories and experiences, and by the exquisite and thoughtful way you have produced and directed this important and timely project.

    As an educator/teacher/narrative practitioner, in Vancouver, Canada, and as someone who shares a story of disruption and diaspora, and who also works in communities where such stories are the lived experiences of children and families, your project gives us much hope.

    “What has happened to you my happiness? What has happened to you, my dream?”, the theme words in the sublime song that you shared, speak of how confounded and “dark” the world becomes as depression visits us, and encroaches our life.

    And yet the story of the song offers us powerful and living metaphors; images of movement, light and the ebb and flow of life, where we can see ourselves beyond the visiting depression.

    The words: “My heart has become the brother of your heart”, allows to me to know that I am connected, and also part of larger stories, some in the memories of my childhood, some yet to be written, and some being lived now. In this, I find a sense of freedom.

    Remembering of our ancestors and their gifts to us, and being around elders in our communities also resonated with me, especially as we take on the long arc of our narrative lives. We are grateful for it all.

    Your final words: “After each darkness there is light. After each night there is day”, are offered as hope, but also as an invitation to take action – a reminder of care and respect when we encounter each other in our differences.

    Thank you and Khuda Hafez

    Munir – Vancouver, Canada

  13. Kassandra Pedersen

    Dear friends,

    the life-saving tip that stood out for me was “water can mentally bring you fresh ideas and can help you forget hard times”. This part evokes an image in my mind…An image of young people, who are already experienced sailors surviving daily the storms of ocean. It seems to me like they have developed a secret language, “the language of water” I would say, that allows them to get the spirit of the sea, to interact with the water, to de-code the wisdom it carries from so many years of existence in the earth and be open to the fresh ideas it brings.

    This image resonates with my own experiences all these times that I felt lonely, lost, worried and anxious and I went down to the beach. I remember the sense of fresh air in my cheeks, I remember watching the playful waves and looking at the open horizon. Water reconnects me with my family roots (many of them were fishermen and immigrants), and it re-alive a sense of freedom and safety to me. It helps me to feel and think fresh.

    You stories reminded me the skills of speaking the “language of water” and the importance of hope in my life. They also made me think that whenever I look at the sea, I will know from now on that somewhere in the other side of the horizon, I’m connected with other your people through the fresh ideas that water brings us.

    I work with young people who are also sailors in the ocean of depression. Since we live in a seaside city in Greece and water is a big part of our history, for most of the people I meet, water is related to stories from their lives and our elders. I’d love to show them this video! I’m so curious to ask them how it might linked them to their own stories of survival.

    Thank you so much for sharing your hard-won knowledges! I really appreciate the fresh air you brought to my life and work with your contributions.


  14. A friend

    Thank you for sharing your stories and wisdom with us.

    The words ‘times of great sorrow’ and ‘nearly drowned in the ocean of depression’ stood out to me. I have been very fortunate in my life, living without war. But still I have experiences ‘times of great sorrow’ and ‘nearly drowned in the ocean of depression’. I too have used this phrase – ‘ocean of sadness’ I’ve called it. Hard times in my family often involved my loved ones thinking they should die, that they should kill themselves. This brings me an ocean of sadness because of my strong love for them.

    I felt encouraged by your proverb ‘after each darkness there is a light’. This made me picture sunrise over the beach. Maybe there is an ocean of hope or an ocean of joy for us to swim in.

    This proverb also reminded me of the importance of friends. When all I see is darkness, my friend holds hope for me, because I can’t hold it for myself. I imagine her holding a candle in the darkness.

    Thank you for reminding me of the light after the darkness. This is a precious knowledge.

  15. People visiting Adelaide to learn about Narrative Therapy and Community Work

    Dear Afghan Youth of South Australia,

    We are people from Adelaide, other places across Australia, and some places internationally. We are visiting Dulwich Centre in Adelaide to learn more about narrative therapy and community work. As people interested in narrative ideas, we also believe that ‘patients are as important as doctors’.

    Among us are community workers, psychologists, counsellors and a personal trainer. Today, we watched the video you made, and learned about the skills you have developed in responding to hard times. Many of the phrases we heard you give to skills and knowledges for responding in particular ways to challenges you’ve faced really stood out to us.

    One of us lives in Mount Gambier, and works with people who are experiencing mental health challenges. ‘There are many pathways out of depression’ is an idea this person will take back to the people she works with. Others appreciated skills and abilities in ‘taking action together’, ‘helping people who are drowning in depression’ and ‘making my body tired so my mind can rest’.

    The knowledges you shared will make a difference in our lives and the lives of people we meet with. In particular, the reminders to listen to the wisdom passed down from Elders seems very important. ‘You can’t travel a thousand miles in a day’ and ‘after night there is day’ reminds one of us, who lives in Iran, of many poems in Persia about the knowledge that, ‘after every failure, there is success’.

    We have been changed by the knowledges you have shared about responding to hard times.

    ‘Reminding me to be kind to myself’ – Sydney NSW

    ‘Fills me with hope, hearing the ways you have held onto hope’ – Adelaide, Homelessness Services

    ‘Some challenges are universal, there is commonality in this’ – Canada living in Bali

    ‘Made me think about checking in with my friend about their passions’ – Australian living in China

    ‘Reminds me that the people I meet with are the ones doing the hard work, not the community workers’ – Sydney NSW

    ‘I live in Nauru – I really connected with your ideas about Elders, and water bringing fresh ideas. I will think of you next time I go to the ocean.’

    We agree that ‘society needs all of us together’ and we wish you happiness and peace. While ‘history guides us’ too, we will hold your stories in our hearts and share your tips for responding to hard times with other people we meet when we return to our homes.

    From people visiting Adelaide to learn about Narrative Therapy and Community Work.

  16. Anon

    Dear friends who are surfing the oceans of depression,

    It was lovely to see your video and how you are reaching out to others and help to prevent people from drowning. This resonated with me as this is something that drives me in my own life and helping people finding their passion and obtaining their goals is something that is also preventing my own drowning. I will add your stories and tips to what I share with others doing similar work and seeing your strength helps and brings me joy.

  17. Anon

    I was inspired by the way you asked to join in the volleyball game. I’m not sure I would have had that courage, but you encouraged me to do the same when I am in a hard place – to be brave and reach out to others.

  18. George Voulgaropoulos

    To the Afghan Youth SA,

    I am a youth worker in Sydney and I work with young people from Afghanistan/Pakistan. Mostly Hazara like yourselves. They speak to me about the worries they have and the worries of their mum and dad which they also feel. I can’t wait to show them your video to try empower themselves and community. Thank you for the honesty and showing your vulnerability.


  19. Isabelle

    To the newly arrived refugees of Afghan Youth SA,

    Congratulations! I would like to thank you for coming to Australia. We are very fortunate to have you all here. You will enrich Australia with your culture, language, food and beautiful music.

    I admire you all for your resilience – you have all lived through so much, and are still hopeful and patient.

    I know that the ocean of despair can seem very deep, and cold and dark, with no end. But one day, you will find land. You have found land – a new land, now all you have to do is walk up to the sand.

    Good luck.
    Your ally in Sydney,

  20. G

    My dear friend!

    I am so moved about your story! I identify with you as I also suffer from depression on and off. Leaving ‘home’ is terribly distressing!
    Coming to a new country and starting again from the beginning is exhausting.

    I identify with you as I also found when I arrived here I needed something to take my mind away from all the trauma and losses I had.
    Water is so soothing!

    I admire you and encourage you to keep following your dreams being strong and persist!

    Be patient and all will come true.


  21. Anon

    I loved the tip on going to the water, the beach to feel better. It made me think of a saying I’ve heard ‘salt water cures everything’. ‘Salt water’ can be 3 things – tears, sweat and the ocean or sea. These are also good tips for surviving the ocean of depression and the waves of life. Thank you for reminding me of this.

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