The Support Group is continuing its hard work in the rural and underprivileged areas of South Africa. In November, Therry Nhlapo, our Outreach Co-ordinator, made a special visit to Eastern Cape to address meetings in King Williams Town, East London and Bisho. The majority of the residents in these areas have very little access to mental health facilities and are still fairly uninformed about mental disorders in general. Therry’s aim was to increase awareness about anxiety and depressive disorders and destigmatise mental disorders.
Therry’s first stop was at the Ciskei Radio Station (CKI) where she was interviewed on the topic of stress and depression. Th half hour interview was well-received and there were a number of interesting questions from callers. Two lucky callers were also given free books on stress management.
Therry then left for East London where she met with Marius Delport from the correctional Services for the Eastern Cape region. This was a follow-up meeting to the one held earlier with Lorinda Berhg, Director of Psychological Services, regarding the formation of support groups in prisons throughout the country. The meeting was successful and it was agreed that one of the prisons in East London would be chosen as a pilot program. The Support Group already has two successful support programs running in Mogwase and Leeuwkop.
Therry also held an important training workshop in Depression, Social Phobia and Panic Disorder which was well-attended by a wide range of professionals including teachers, social workers, doctors, nurses and members of the police force. At the end of the three hour meeting, volunteers agreed to form support groups whilst the other participants pledged to empower their colleagues and increase the involvement of their communities in fighting depression and anxiety.
Finally, Therry gave a presentation on the Depression and Anxiety Support Group at a conference hosted by the National Aids Convention of South Africa (NACOSA). The conference was attended by over 150 delegates drawn from NGOs, religious leaders, government departments and their political heads. Therry’s speech focused on the importance of training people to establish support groups and increasing the number of support groups in the rural population, as Depression and Aids often go hand in hand.
Mr Mbulawa from the Department of Health in the Eastern Cape regarded Therry’s visit to his region as a big “success”. He commented that Therry’s first workshop was an “eye opener” and that he “cannot overemphasise the interest and participation of the audience which kept the meeting going for over three hours”. He also said that Therry’s visit “highlighted the need to increase support groups in the rural population, to raise public awareness and destigmatise mental illnesses”. Mr Mbulawa requested that the group visit the province on a regular basis facilitating similar kinds of workshops and visiting rural areas and traditional practitioners.