Contact number: 078 278 7047
Update from the KZN Office
And of course, their mental health advocacy work and spearhead initiatives will continue as professionals within the Department of Health. We do wish them both all the very best.
Mental Health and Gender Initiative (MHaGI)
2023 saw the finalisation of the 3-year Mental Health and Gender Initiative (MHaGI) project which was funded by the Women’s Voice and Leadership South Africa (WVL-SA) and Gender Links in partnership with the Canadian Government. MHaGI brought together diverse, neglected issues that revolved around very practical objectives focused on improving access to psychosocial services for women and girls as well as to specific vulnerable populations within the eThekwini region.
The primary objectives of the project were:
- Improve access to psychosocial care in disadvantaged regions of KZN.
- Increase awareness and knowledge of mental health in KZN.
- Inspire advocacy and critical consciousness in KZN.
These objectives were achieved through the implementation of several projects spanning across four outcomes:
- Outcome 1: Create a provincial platform for gender and mental health.
- Outcome 2: Set up support groups in all ten districts in KZN.
- Outcome 3: Improve access to services for specific vulnerable groups.
- Outcome 4: Improve mental health literacy and advocacy.
The MHaGI project culminated in the hosting of the Gender & Mental Health focused symposium which was held in July 2023.
Appreciative Inquiry Intervention
In 2023, initial discussions commenced with the Department of Basic Education, the Province of KwaZulu-Natal Special Needs Education Department, and district officials to redefine the department's needs. Guided by community psychology principles and a solution-focused paradigm, a proposal for an Appreciative Inquiry intervention was introduced to leverage existing strengths within resource constraints across various districts.
The intervention's focus was on staff members from the psychosocial services and special needs education departments responsible for addressing schools' psychological and behavioural needs and, consequently, the students throughout the province. The goal was to evaluate strengths within each district and empower staff to develop interventions aimed at enhancing the psychosocial context of their respective districts. Specifically, the staff received training to implement an Appreciative Inquiry intervention for principals within their districts.
From June 12 to June 14, 2023, the three-day intervention engaged thirty-eight delegates from all eleven districts of KwaZulu-Natal, including the management of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education. The intervention took place at the Sica’s Guest House Conference Centre and featured facilitators such as Mr. Suntosh Pillay, Prof. Suvira Ramlall, Dr Lynn Norton, and Ms. Lynne Richards. Topics covered included 'Work and Well-being,' an analysis of district characteristics using the 'Tree of Life' technique, mindfulness, participation in an Appreciative Inquiry summit, and 'Success Intelligence.' The intervention aimed to motivate staff and equip them with knowledge and skills to empower principals in their districts.
On September 21, 2023, a follow-up meeting discussed feedback from each district. At that time, one district had already implemented an appreciative inquiry intervention, with nine others incorporating an appreciative inquiry spirit into their solution-focused interventions. Two districts planned to conduct appreciative inquiry interventions in 2024.
8th Annual Mental Health Advocacy Walk & Wellness Fair
Despite the inclement weather, the 8th annual Mental Health Walk & Wellness Fair successfully hosted over 850 participants. The event conveyed a compelling public message, contributing to the destigmatization of mental illness and rallying support for a crucial local and global public health priority.
Below are links to some of the amazing coverage of “South Africa’s biggest mental health advocacy walk” (Times Live, 10 October 2023).
Promoting Mental Health in KZN
Our extensive mental health advocacy endeavours primarily focus on presenting tailored discussions within communities. In the current year, we conducted sessions covering diverse subjects such as depression, anxiety, grief, and suicide. Additionally, we organized Mental Health Awareness stands across the province, contributing to increased awareness and reduced stigma. These initiatives not only foster social capital but also enhance networks within the community.