The SA Federation of Mental Health has recently honoured the Support Group with an award for its achievements over the last two years in reaching service users of previously disadvantaged groups or rural areas. Eli Lilly (South Africa), manufacturers of Prozac, was also presented with an award for “Distinguished services in promoting mental health in South Africa”.
This year is the 50th Anniversary for the World Health Organisation and also for the World Federation of Mental Health, of which the South African Federation for Mental Health is a founder member. It is in commemoration of these two prestigious events, that the SA Federation has decided to confer a number of awards to both individuals and organisations that have been nominated for outstanding achievements in the field of mental health.
The SA Federation was particularly impressed with the Support Group’s active expansion into disadvantaged and rural communities through effective outreach programmes. This is an aspect of mental health that has previously been neglected in the South African setting, and the Depression and Anxiety Support Group is the first advocacy organisation to take the initiative in this area. The Federation believes that it is of extreme importance for the future development of the South African community mental health services, that advocacy groups join the world-wide trend of assuming increasing control over community services that affect them. The Depression and Anxiety Support Group’s work is helping to empower service users so that they can learn to help themselves.
Eli Lilly (South Africa) was chosen for a Federation Award because of its significant services in promoting mental health in South Africa. The award was presented at the Federation banquet and accepted by Dr. Danie Du Plessis, Business Unit Manager for Eli Lilly. Eli Lilly, a prominent pharmaceutical company which manufactures several well-known psychotropic brands, has become closely involved in the Federation’s awareness campaigns. In 1995, a joint Depression Awareness Campaign was conducted and in 1998 the firm sponsored the Mental Illness Awareness Month which focused on Schizophrenia. Eli Lilly in the United States is also one of the major sponsor of the World Federation for Mental Health.
This was the first time that the SA Federation of Mental Health has chosen to distribute awards across the board to individuals and organisations that have made a significant difference in the psychiatric sphere, mentally handicapped sphere and mental health sphere. However, because of the success of the event, the Federation has decided to repeat the awards every two years to coincide with their general meeting.
Lage Vitas, The National Executive Director of the SA Federation, believes that “the Depression and Anxiety Support Group has made great strides in increasing the involvement of users and mobilising user resources. This area has been a matter of concern for South African mental health. There is a world wide tendency for service users to assume increasing control over community services and South Africa has been lagging behind in this respect. The Federation acknowledges the impact the Support Group has made in this sphere.