SADAG Striking out Stigma in Kwa Thema Written by Gaby Kriel
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) ran a rural workshop in Kwa Thema last month on the 18th March 2010. It was attended by over 200 people and many others that had to put their names down for the next training. The event was coordinated by local resident and senior counsellor at SADAG, Bongi Msimango and opened by community leader Joshua Tshwala. Various speakers from SADAG delivered presentations on: depression, how to identify it, and treat it; coping with trauma; suicide prevention; guidelines on how to start a support group; and what are Speaking Books. The presentations were aimed at community workers, social worker, members of NGO’s, church groups, youth groups and home-based care workers.
Established 15 years ago by Zane Wilson, SADAG has made mental illness awareness and the destigmatization of mental illness one of their main priorities. Mental health problems disturb the way you think and live your life. The stigma surrounding mental illness is often the cause of patients not seeking treatment. SADAG’S message is loud and clear. Do not hide mental health issues; remove the stigma by voicing out your mental health issues. Patients are encouraged to read up about their illness so they can understand it, as well as receive the proper medical treatment from trained professionals. Maria Mdluti from the Ikhalethu Centre said she deals with suicide, depression and counselling on a weekly basis. “This workshop has provided us with much needed information and has given us courage to go on”.” They also gave us their toll free numbers 0800 12 13 14 and even an sms 31393 that can help people”. “Having the workshop within the community helps a lot as it brings the community and NGO’s together to empower us “.
As was discussed at the workshop by the CEO of SADAG, Elizabeth Matare, it is crucial to bring awareness to mental health issues such as depression. Depression is not something one can overcome with mere willpower. It is an illness like any other, therefore treatment is necessary. Sphiwe Boshomane from the Kwa Thema Old Age Home said “I see depression everyday but until today did not realise what it was. Now that I understand the illness I know how to deal with the patients. I will no longer isolate them as I did before.”
Amongst those who attended: The Department of Health, Child Welfare, Ikhayalethu Centre, the Kwa Thema Old Age Home and Nokuphile Community Services to name a few.. They confirmed the workshop had indeed succeeded in achieving its goals in spreading much needed awareness within the community. Handy Nkosi from Child welfare said “I face these issues on a daily basis. Now I have a better understanding of how to handle them.” Everyone left the workshop with new knowledge as well as their own speaking books to take back and use within their organizations.
The community was encouraged to start their own support groups. By sharing experiences and problems with other people in the same circumstances, it helps to create a bond and serves as a successful treatment. Andile Siluma from Nokuphile Community services commented “I will be able to use what I have learnt today because I run a support group for teenagers”.
SADAG has worked tirelessly over the last 12 years in rural communities to put in place help and support for patients. They were the first Mental Health NGO to work extensively with Traditional Healers to encourage them to look at depression and anxiety as a health problem with treatment at local clinics. Recently they have opened the first on site counselling centre in Diepsloot courtesy of Janssen-Cilag, and have two counsellors there on a permanent basis. This they hope to duplicate in other townships.
Doreen Sibaya from the Department of Health commented that “It is necessary to spread awareness and reach out to these communities. I am very impressed with this workshop and hope to see follow up meetings”. For more information go to our website at www.SADAG.co.za