AMARI: the African Mental Health Research Initiative

What's happening in AMARI?

Road to recovery: ARTICULATE Ambassador

Claudious perfoming at the 2019 AMARI ASM in March, Ethiopia

Claudious perfoming at the 2019 AMARI ASM in March, Ethiopia

In 2012, then 21 year old Claudius Mukoki joined the bandwagon of youths that eloped Zimbabwe to neighboring South Africa in search of greener pastures. Although he did not have legal documents to travel and settle in South Africa, Claudius was undaunted in his newly found prospects for a better life, all he wanted was to make some money in South Africa, come back to Zimbabwe and afford his parents a decent life. Alas, he had miscalculated and his move to South Africa would later on unfold into a nightmare starring mental challenges.

Whilst in South Africa Claudius was incapacitated to look for formal employment because of his lack of legal documents to settle and work in the country. Life for him became more difficult than back in Zimbabwe, he succumbed to peer pressure and sought solace in substance abuse, a decision that he would later on regret. Away from home and being of experimental age, marijuana and Broncleer (a Codeine-based cough syrup that is abused by drug users) became part of his daily diet. It was during these days in exile that Claudius started doing music, but due to substance abuse which he said made him frightened and weak, his career was dead before it even started.

2015 was a grey year for Claudius. It was then that he started experiencing mental episodes. He started experiencing hallucinations and hearing voices. Scared of these foreign experiences in a land he did not belong, he sold his belongings and returned to Zimbabwe in 2016 and joined his parents at their rural home in Sanyati. He thought being in a foreign land was responsible for the hallucinations and so decided to continue with his substance abuse since he was back home. It was then that he started experiencing severe mental relapses to the extent that he ran away from home into the wild for two days. His situation deteriorated and at the start of 2017, handcuffed, his parents took him to Harare hospital where he was admitted at the Psychiatric unit and put on medication. This decision by Claudius’ parents overwhelmed all the advice rendered by relatives and friends to consult local prophets and traditional healers. 

Claudius’ story would take a turn around when he met the Director of the African Mental Health Research Initiative (AMARI) ( who is also one of the few psychiatrists in Zimbabwe, Dr Dixon Chibanda at Harare Hospital. Dr Chibanda took a sudden interest in the young man due to his musical talent, after he had sung a deep piece from one of his first singles ‘Chigondora’ which captivated Dr Chibanda who then decided to help Claudius pursue his musical career, but firstly he helped him recover his mental wellbeing, music became part of the therapy.

In 2018 Claudius was introduced to ARTICULATE, AMARI’s public engagement component. ARTICULATE supported Claudius’ first musical album which features the mental health song –“All in the mind”, a song that discourages youths from taking drugs for recreational purposes and encourages them to overcome peer pressure. Currently Claudius continues working with AMARI/ ARTICULATE in public engagement activities and is working with Zimbabwe Musicians Union (ZIMU) on a mental health project to produce 12 mental health songs to spread the message to youths across Zimbabwe.

Claudius’ song “Maria Bongo” that features on the ZIMU project exudes pure creativeness and endorses him as a great song writer. The plot of the song is on a teenage orphaned girl who thinks the world is blind on her. Claudius managed to meet with the late great Zimbabwe music icon Dr Oliver Mtukudzi sometime in 2018 and the music legend had pledged to support Claudius in his musical career. He also featured in veteran award winning Zimbabwe journalist Hopewell Chin’ono’s 2018 production, State of Mind documentary alongside Dr Chibanda.

Claudius is now fully recovered and is living a drug free life and has become an ambassador for mental health, spreading the message through music, and getting into communities to share his story. He is happily married and blessed with two beautiful daughters. He is now using his story to inspire youths incarcerated by the affliction of substance abuse that just like him it is possible to overcome and live mentally healthy lives.

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