KZN Citizens Unite for Better Mental Health Services

By: Suntosh R Pillay

Over 600 people from Durban and around KwaZulu-Natal united on October 15 to demand better mental health services in the province. The second annual mental health advocacy walk took place hot on the heels of World Mental Health Day on October 10 and the start of the Life Esidimeni hearings in Johannesburg.

 This was the largest community-driven mass gathering of people for the purposes of mental health, and the event brought people together to remove the stigma about mental illnesses, substance abuse, and other emotional problems. It was organized under the auspices of the KZN Mental Health Advocacy Group, a network that my colleagues and I began in 2015 to end the silos within which mental health operates.

With typically sunny weather on our side, the walk began at the North Beach Amphitheatre and included an aerobics session, free health screenings, lots of freebies, and an awareness campaign. Chronic service users from North Bay Lodge and Ekhuhlengeni Psychiatric Hospital also attended with their caregivers and staff.

Sponsors included Sanlam, the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP), Nurture, Akeso, Astra Zeneca, PharmaDynamics, Discovery, Department of Sports and Recreation, Department of Health, and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). The event was supported by numerous NGOS, such as the Bessie Makathini Foundation, that focuses on dementia in the Lamontville community; the Amandlabadala group, the Advice Desk for Abused Women, Toastmasters, and the PsySSA Student Division at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

There are already plans to make this a national event in 2018, and we hope that PsySSA members will come on board!

To join the movement, email MHadvocacygroup@gmail.com

DPPG Monthly Meetings:

The Durban Practicing Psychologists Group (DPPG) and the PsySSA KZN Branch has co-hosted monthly CPD meetings since the last PsyTalk edition. The topic for the August meeting was Mindful Tools for Psychologists”, which was presented by Ms Despina Papanicolaou. Dr Samantha Ramkisson presented on Diabetes and Mental Health” in September and Ms Kirsten Clark presented on 25 October on The Neurobiology of Addiction”. A reminder that these CPD meetings take place on the last Wednesday of every month in Durban from 17:30-18:30 and all DPPG and PsySSA KZN members are invited to attend.

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