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!
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.
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.