The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is Africa’s largest Mental Health advocacy group. The organisation’s main aim is to destigmatise Mental Health issues in all areas within South Africa. One way the NGO works towards this is by setting up Support Groups countrywide. These groups run once or twice a month and offer anyone suffering from a mental illness, as well as their loved ones, a place of warmth, understanding and support. Research shows that Support Groups can help people cope with and recover from a wide variety of problems. They are able to provide information on the illness and ways to treat and manage it, as well as help give patients and loved ones names of places where further help and assistance can be found. They also allow members the opportunity to form connections with others experiencing similar troubles and to learn from one another in a non-judgmental and confidential atmosphere.
“Many people in my group have felt and experienced similar things,” shares Johannesburg Support Group Leader, Karen. “Opening up in a group, discussing these things in a group, helps people understand they are not weird, different or alone – we understand, we’ve been there and we are there to help.”
SADAG is currently looking for recovered patients, family members, psychologists or teachers to help run Support Groups in their communities on Mental Health issues like Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, and Trauma. SADAG will be hosting Support Group Leader Workshops at Woodlands Hospital, Bloemfontein which will take place on 16 September 2017. All new volunteer Support Group Leaders are provided with information, brochures and manuals, receiving training on how to run a group, find a suitable venue, and arrange guest speakers occasionally. SADAG further promotes Support Groups on social media, as well as to local media, advising people in the area about the group and the dates and times of the meetings.
BENEFITS OF SUPPORT GROUPS
- They provide a place of stability and security, a place in which you can feel respected, nurtured and cared for.
- It’s the first place you can go where everyone understands and no one judges.
- There’s a code of confidentiality within the group and each member’s privacy and dignity are respected.
- A group offers hope by allowing you to be around those who have recovered. When you’re in a terrible place, it’s a wonderful experience to get a visit from a caring group member who is calling just to see how you’re doing. It’s equally gratifying to visit someone in distress and be able to help them.
- Knowing that someone else truly understands by virtue of having ‘been there’ themselves brings a sense of relief – you are no longer alone. Everyone is given the freedom to draw on the strength of the group as needed and to extend strength to others when possible.
- Through group discussions, a great deal of information and education is gained. It helps to share coping tips and methods that haven’t only come from books.