“Step Up” for Mental Health
The College of Health Science’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Departments recently organised a “Step Up” – for Mental Health Campaign in the form of a fun walk on Durban’s beachfront promenade to observe National Mental Health Awareness Month.
The walk was the first official activity of the KZN Mental Health Advocacy Group. About 350 people, including babies in prams and senior citizens, braved one of Durban’s coldest winter mornings to complete the walk.
Psychiatrist Dr Suvira Ramlall said the enthusiastic crowd epitomised the resilience and mettle of those affected by and working with mental illness and substance abuse.
Participants included mental health care patients, caregivers, practitioners, members of the public and private sector service providers as well as representatives of non-profit organisations and benefactors. Participants walked 5km or 10km and were rewarded with medals for their participation.
A vibrant group of organisations engaged with participants to provide much needed information, advice, pamphlets and display the creative handicrafts of chronic mental health care users.
‘Mental well-being is fundamental to the quality of life and productivity of individuals, families, communities and nations, enabling people to experience life as meaningful and to be creative and active citizens,’ said Ramlall. ‘Mental health activities enhance peoples’ well-being and function by focusing on their strengths and resources, reinforcing resilience, reducing risks and enhancing external protective factors.’
Organisations and institutions which participated included the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), Nurture, Alzheimer’s SA, Durban and Coastal Mental Health Society, Rehabilitation and Upliftment Foundation (RAUF), Jullo Centre, Healing Hills and Akeso Psychiatric Hospitals, Ekuhlengeni Provincial Hospital, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Bessie Makhatini Foundation for Dementia Care in Lamontville and UKZN Howard College’s Student Society of Psychology, supported by the KwaZulu-Natal Branch of the Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA).
Ramlall said the Mental Health Advocacy Group plans to make the walk an annual, and possibly national, event. ‘The advocacy group aims to change the structural and attitudinal barriers to achieve positive mental health outcomes. It plans to take action to help and support people affected by mental illness voice their needs, secure their rights, represent their interests and obtain services required, thus helping to promote social inclusion, equality and social justice,’ explained Ramlall.
The Mental Health Advocacy Group is an initiative of mental health care practitioners based at King Dinuzulu Psychiatric Hospital in Durban, which is a satellite training site of UKZN, and is supported by the KZN Department of Health, the South African Society of Psychiatrists, PsySSA, SADAG, Discovery Health, Sanofi Aventis, Akeso Psychiatric Clinics and the Durban Practicing Psychologists Group.