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Public education efforts that understand and respect people's cultural diversity, as well as teamwork among traditional and medical professionals, are necessary to cope with mental illnesses and the mentally ill. 

These are among the findings of Odwa Sikrweqe’s research for his master’s degree in Psychology. 
“I can't help but reflect on the journey that brought me here. It wasn't an easy road, but it was a fulfilling one”, says Odwa, who researched Eastern Cape residents’ perceptions of mental illness and the influence of culture and religion in their coping strategies. His supervisor was Dr Ulricha de Klerk and co-supervisor Prof Ally Yaseen. 
Odwa who is 25 years’ old, is now an assistant psychology lecturer at Rhodes University and has registered for his PhD at Mandela Uni on mental health practitioners incorporating African-centred psychology to the mental health care system of south Africa. 
His research further indicated that Eastern Cape residents do indeed have substantial knowledge about the cause of mental illness, but they have both positive and negative attitudes towards the mentally ill. Religion and culture also play a role in their coping with a mental illness. 
His dream job is to be a researcher and professor in psychology. In five years, he hopes to have completed his doctoral and be a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer in Psychology, working in research at a university or academic institution. 
Odwa grew up in the rural outskirts of a small town called Kwa-Bhaca (formerly Mount Frere) in the Eastern Cape and he matriculated at Dangwana Senior Secondary School.
He completed all his studies thus far at Mandela University and during his master’s studies 
also worked as residence manager at Premier Student Accommodation, an accredited off-campus residence, 
His research showed that mental illness has become a global concern, which may result in a mental health pandemic. In addition, South Africa’s cultural and religious diversity leads to diverse views regarding mental illness, including supernatural beliefs, traditional healing and indigenous medicines and treatments and the influence of religion and culture. 
“At some point in this journey, I lost funding and had to work full-time while pursuing my degree, to pay for some of the education costs. It wasn't easy balancing fulltime work and studies, but I was determined to achieve my dream that I would work during the day and study overnight”. 
As Maya Angelou once said, "Nothing will work unless you do" and somehow, I found a balance and made it work. There were times when I wanted to give up, but I kept pushing through”, he says.
He spent countless nights pouring over research papers and reviewing literature, but he decided he was going to be that student who will complete their qualification despite the challenges, and nothing was going to stop him. 
“Finally, after years of hard work, I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that I had never felt before. I have proven to myself that I could achieve my dreams, no matter what obstacles I faced”, he says.
"Umthi omnye awenzi hlathi" is a Xhosa saying, which translates to "One tree does not make a forest." This emphasises the idea that success is rarely achieved alone, and that it often takes the collective effort of many individuals to achieve a common goal. 
“In my graduation journey, this saying highlights the support and encouragement I received from my research supervisors, family, and friends, who helped me along the way. It acknowledges that my success is not solely my own, but also the result of the support and guidance I received from those around me”.

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160