Listen: Riaan Grobler opens up about bipolar depression


As a radio announcer at Pretoria FM and television personality, who also regularly deals with fans as master of ceremonies at festivals and other events, Riaan Grobler knows what it feels like to wear a mask with a smile, even if the dark cloud of depression hangs daily over his head.

Riaan recently made the decision to publicize his battle with bipolar depression on social media, a diagnosis he had previously hidden from his listeners with all his might due to the stigma attached to it.

He tells in RNews’s studio that he already realized there was a big mistake in 2001 when he began to notice that it was becoming increasingly difficult to get out of bed in the morning.

“I was in an incredibly negative space and there were days that were unbearable. I had suicidal tendencies and I was still so young, I didn’t know what was happening to me.

“Because of the smile you always put on your face, and because you’re always the clown at the party, people think you’re this hugely positive person. I couldn’t put a name to what was going on with me.”

He tried to commit suicide for the first time in 2001 by taking pills. He was consequently admitted to an institution and according to Riaan, he heard the word “depression” for the first time there.

“So many of my family and friends have told me to just get over it because it’s all in my head. So I just kept going and I finally started to believe myself that it was all in my head. I went off my antidepressants in 2003 and stopped seeing my doctor.”

However, Riaan still could not understand why as a student he felt good one moment, and several seconds later felt as if he had fallen into a deep, dark hole from which he could not get out.

“I often felt like I couldn’t face the world, but the voices of the people who always told me the darkness was only in my head kept grinding in my mind.”

For years he fought his depression without medication or help, until in 2020 he no longer saw a chance to continue.

“I realized (the depression) is bigger than I am and I either have to get help or I have to put an end to it. Before my fortieth birthday, I carefully planned how I was going to end my life. What was going on in my head is: Everyone says it’s selfish to commit suicide and you leave behind people who love you, but why should I live for those people? People can go on without me. Why do I have to keep living and keep feeling bad?”

A few minutes before Riaan wanted to end his life, a friend called him and said she noticed something in his last Facebook post that worried her.

“The whole wound burst open right there. The can of worms was opened and I realized I needed to get help right away. I was re-admitted to an institution and I ended up with a wonderful doctor who diagnosed me with bipolar depression.”

According to Riaan, he decided to open up about his diagnosis, because he knows there are thousands of people who feel the same, but who cannot talk about it.

“One day I just decided to write on Facebook that I don’t feel well and that I don’t see a chance to look people in the eye. It provoked so much reaction and an overwhelming amount of people resonated with it.

“If I talk about it, other people are going to talk about it. They will notice that there is help. For example, if you are diagnosed with diabetes, you will get help and medication so that you can overcome the disease and keep balanced – but you have to accept (the diagnosis of depression) first.

“The biggest thing and only decision you have as a depression sufferer is not whether you are going to have a good day or a bad day, but rather to fight this thing. The only way you’re going to be able to do that is to get professional help.”

Groups such as the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) offer support to anyone struggling with depression or other mental illness. Call here for help or call 0800 567 567.

  • Feel free to contact Riaan Grobler Facebook.
  • Listen to the full studio interview with Riaan Grobler at the top of the report.