Advocacy Group hosts Fifth Mental Health Symposium
The KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Mental Health Advocacy Group hosted its Fifth annual mental health symposium on 3 July at UKZN’s UNITE Building.
Six speakers discussed the theme of "Making mental health everybody’s business". Two hundred delegates from across the province attended.
Ms Chantelle Booysen shared her experiences of living with bipolar mood disorder and said that it was ‘an honour to attend this important event on the KwaZulu-Natal calendar.
‘Sharing the podium with speakers who covered so many aspects of how to tackle mental ill-health, is incredibly inspiring. I cannot help but feel hopeful about the collective effort to prioritise mental health in South Africa.’
Booysen is an activist and youth leader for the Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health and currently works part-time as a project manager for the newly established KZN office of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) that co-hosted the event.
Alumnus, Dr Goodman Sibeko broke the ice by taking a “selfie” with the audience, saying, ‘I’d always wanted to do this!’ He serves as the Head of Addiction Psychiatry at the University of Cape Town and Co-Director of the South Africa HIV Addiction Technology Transfer Centre (ATTC). He discussed the possibility of using non-specialist workers in the management of severe mental illness and developing task sharing models for the treatment of harmful substance use, mental health and HIV.
Professor Arvin Bhana, a senior specialist scientist at the Medical Research Council, spoke about mental health screening as a health system intervention, and his team’s work in validating brief screening tools for mental health. Mrs Winnie Cele, a Nursing lecturer at UKZN, shared her PhD research findings, which analysed the implementation of the National Mental Health Policy Framework in terms of the integration of mental health into HIV services in selected primary health care settings in KwaZulu-Natal. The study found that knowledge and attitudes around the policy leave much to be desired, and that a more concerted effort is required to make it a reality.
Dr Lotty Labys, an American-licensed psychologist, presented her research on refugees in Durban. In March, she and two colleagues founded the Centre for Living in Durban, a non-profit organisation for refugee wellbeing and social services, to tackle, amongst other issues, depression and trauma amongst refugees.
In the spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration, Ms Desiree Govender, a physiotherapist at GJ Crookes Hospital, was invited to speak about her profession’s often overlooked role in mental health. Her PhD aims to address the problems and needs arising from teenage pregnancies and parenting among adolescent mothers by establishing a healthcare community of practice model that will offer a multidisciplinary and comprehensive approach towards their care.
Since its launch at the King Dinuzulu Hospital Complex in 2015, the Advocacy Group has spearheaded various activities to destigmatise mental illness and promote mental health. This includes the annual CPD-accredited symposium to commemorate Mental Illness Awareness Month every July, and the annual Walk and Wellness Fair every October, to celebrate World Mental Health Day. This year the walk takes place on 6 October.
Bargain Books at Westwood Mall and the Professional Provident Society (PPS) assisted with sponsorships for the symposium, and students from UKZN’s Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA) Student Division volunteered on the day.
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Words: Lihle Sosibo