With the continual feeling of “the world must be crazy”, increased numbers of people are becoming more aware of what it really feels like to suffer from mental health problems. One in three South African’s will be affected by a mental health illness within their lifetime.

Depression and Anxiety are amongst the most common mental illnesses, and are caused by a number of factors including stress, anxiety, trauma and suicide. Think about your office environment for a moment. Do you suspect that at least one of your colleagues or employees may be having difficulty with their mental health? How many of your colleagues have been the victim of crime? How many worry about financial security and how many have children currently at University? Any of these factors can contribute to mental health problems, and how well someone may be able to cope with what is going on in their lives.

A recent caller, a top notch CEO in a well-known company, recently called our helpline, “I am tired of being strong, and the stress is too much. I get home and my wife expects me to be a perfect, loving husband and father, and I just can’t do it anymore. Maybe it would be easier if I just did myself in.” This is a very real example of what people are feeling. Mental health issues are everywhere and affect every one of us.

In order to cope, many are turning to over-the-counter herbal medications, stress reduction therapy, and antidepressants. It is most often recommended that along with prescription medication received by a doctor or psychiatrist that some form of therapy is also used. A support structure and a conducive environment for healing will also be monumental in the journey to recovery. Support may include seeing a psychologist or social worker for counselling. Medication is useful in treating the symptoms of mental illness, however we cannot merely hide the symptoms. The underlying causes for the illness will remain if the person only receives pharmaceutical intervention (e.g. if they are in an abusive relationship, or if they are unemployed and struggling with poverty – taking medication will not resolve these issues).

SADAG answers a 16-line counselling and referral call centre where people are able to speak to SADAG trained counsellors and are then referred to the correct health care professional in the area in which they live. The operation of the helplines is dependent on 100 incredible volunteers, but as the cases become more complex and the issues faced more intense, SADAG urgently needs to employ an counsellors as soon as possible. The cost of one counsellor is R12 000 per month, a steep amount for any non-profit organisation. In order to continue providing an excellent counselling and referral base, funding is urgently required.

Over and above the counselling and referral helplines, SADAG has 200 Support Groups countrywide, in addition to a walk-in counselling and referral container in Diepsloot, Johannesburg. The organisation also provides numerous school talks including ‘Teen Suicide Prevention’, ‘My Body, My Choice’, ‘Exam Stress’, and  ‘Substance Abuse’ amongst others. Furthermore, SADAG actively engages with the corporate and business sector through hosting Corporate Wellness Days with the aim of raising awareness and providing support for mental health and wellness in the workplace. “One of the most exciting initiatives is our Speaking Books”, says Zane Wilson, Founder of SADAG. “These books are specifically targeted at low literacy communities and contain life changing information about a variety of subject matters that pertain to health”. The books are colourfully illustrated with easy to read text, read by a well-known local celebrity who reads the story in different languages that is understood by the targeted community.

SADAG has been in operation for over 20 years and has assisted millions of people countrywide. We have received many awards for innovation, and done great work in creating awareness and destigmatizing mental health issues. SADAG is a leading patient rights advocacy group, giving voice to those who cannot always speak for themselves, whether with hospitals or governments, or medical aid schemes. .

To assist SADAG, visit www.sadag.org and click on the ‘About Us’ tab. To make a donation on line you can click on the “Make a Donation” button on the website. All donations to SADAG are personally acknowledged and Tax Deductible under Section 18A of the Income Tax Act. Our funds go to the phone costs, the speaking books on suicide prevention for youth, to buying printer refills, photocopy paper and postage to send information for patients countrywide.

 Should you require any further information about the services that SADAG provides, please contact Tracy or Naazia at  (011) 234 4837. For assistance with any mental health problems contact our helpline on 0800 21 22 23.