The Vaal region has some of the highest suicide rates in the country. It is these statistics that led the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) to call on more people to help start support groups in their area.

"Groups are critical in helping sufferers and their families come to terms with their illness," stated SADAG's Chevonne Powell in a press release. These groups may help those who have been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder and are feeling angry or isolated. The groups may help share the pain without judgement. Former patients who have experienced the challenges, which come with suffering from a mental illness, usually run the groups.

While SADAG has a number of support groups around the country, it appeals to people to consider starting more groups. Mainly due to the fact that not everybody has the support of family and friends and many may feel alone or may be in need of somebody outside the family for support. "A support group could help many people in various ways and practical experience sends a powerful message of hope," says Powell. It would be helpful to first attend a couple of support group meetings, and getting a friend or colleague to assist you before starting a new group.

How to get started

- Locate an appropriate venue

- remember issues like accessibility in terms of transport.

- Decide on meeting times

- Get external advice and invite guest speakers.

- Contact local press or other media

- Call SADAG for help, to receive brochures and posters to advertise your first meeting (This should be four weeks prior to the meeting)

For more information, call Chevonne or Cassey on (Oil) 262 6396 or 0800 12 13 14 between 08:00 and 20:00. All calls are screened before being referred to a support group.