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Tis the season to be jolly!

At SADAG KZN we have a lot to be cheerful and grateful about as we look back on 2022.

SADAG KZN was opened as a satellite branch of SADAG in 2018 under the leadership of specialist Psychiatrist, Prof Suvira Ramlall, and psychologist, Suntosh Pillay, together with the support of the Johannesburg office. Today, the branch is an evolving body, growing to meet the needs of a province with very few mental health resources and a treatment gap that mirrors the large rural-urban.

As the organization evolved and grew this year, we said ‘hello’ to new staff and a sad ‘so long’ to others. Siwe Ndlovu joined the team as a part-time office administrator and Rivendri Govender took on the role of the project manager of the Gender-links Women’s Grant. We wished Chantelle Van Straaten, our project manager, and Bukelwa Khuzwayo, our administrator, good luck as they pursued their Master’s degrees. Sadly, Dr. Lynn Norton, who has been the face and voice behind our endeavors, resigned from her role as SADAG KZN coordinator. We thank Lynn for her commitment to destigmatizing mental health one talk or walk at a time! We also welcomed Lynne Richards into the team as the acting coordinator. While our staff complement may be small, it is our dedicated volunteers who ensure the success of the various projects we undertake.

While our Christmas wish is always to be able to do more to make ‘mental health matter’, we believe that each intervention, campaign, support group, community forum talk, and community engagement adds to the mental health literacy within our province.

Importantly, 2022 saw the implementation of many of the initiatives planned for the Mental Health and Gender Initiative, Gender Links grant. Yanga Mdleni from the LGBTQI+ Community Support Group hosted a workshop that encouraged the use of art as a medium for mindfulness. In addition, SADAG KZN together with the UKZN Howard College Centre for Applied Psychology hosted a training of support group leaders from all 11 districts. The psychology masters (M1) students support the district leaders for the duration of a year. The Mum’s Support Network embarked on a campaign to increase knowledge regarding peri-natal depression throughout previously disadvantaged communities in KwaZulu-Natal. SADAG KZN together with Lliane Loots of the FlatFoot Dance Company facilitated the second round of dance lessons for the teenage girls of a local refugee community. Embracing the relationship between art and expression, project leader Masoodah Mohamed used poetry and photography to capture the lived experience of women living with mental health difficulties. We are very proud of this project and cannot wait to see it come to life in print.

Research, the development of evidence-based interventions, and the publication of these is a key focus of the SADAG KZN branch. Studies on topics including the experiences of support group leaders as well as reviews are underway, and we look forward to sharing the findings.

SADAG KZN remains committed to establishing support groups. This year, psychologist Maxine Grimett of PsychGrow hosted an eight-session group in which she provided helpful skills to cope with anxiety as well as a space for individuals who are experiencing similar challenges to support each other. In addition, Dr Shireen Noor-Mahomed hosted a four-session series for those who had experienced trauma due to the floods which affected KZN. To all our support group leaders, we thank you for holding the space for others in their time of need.

On the 9th of October, the KZN Mental Health Advocacy Group together with SADAG KZN hosted the 7th annual KZN Mental Health Walk. The day proved to be a fun-filled one, with over 700 participants converging on the Durban promenaded to ‘step up’ for mental health. Participants were treated to mindfulness, Zumba, dance, yoga, and meditation while NGOs and various health organizations provided the crowds with holistic information. The walk was made possible through the generous donations of sponsors and the assistance of our volunteers. In 2023 we hope that more mental health enthusiasts join us on the 8th of October as we advocate for mental health.

A large aspect of our mental health advocacy efforts involves delivering targeted talks to communities. This year we delivered talks on various topics including depression and anxiety, grief, suicide, LGBTQI+ rights, and more! Staff and volunteers also joined forces with SADAG to expand the reach of the NPOwer initiative, aimed at providing for the mental health needs of non-governmental and non-profit organizations’ staff. Through these initiatives, social capital is built, and networks strengthen. Our first community forum talk of the new year will be held on the 17th of January 2022 and is aimed at assisting matric students to cope with the imminent release of results. We encourage students across South Africa to join in!

Lastly, we would like to thank everyone who contributed to SADAG KZN with their time, talents, or financial contributions. Our work would not be possible without you! From the SADAG KZN team, we would like to wish you and your family a safe and blessed festive season.




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