The Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA) urges commemoration, reflection, compassion and a commitment to social justice on Human Rights Day (21 March 2019)
In our 25th anniversary year, we as the Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA) would like to reaffirm our commitment to mental health, psychosocial well-being, social justice and equal rights for all, on this 2019 Human Rights Day. This is a moment to take stock of the past, to reflect on the present, and to advocate for a future that is rights-based and celebrates a common humanity. We are deeply cognizant of the sacrifices made by so many so that all of us can currently benefit from the prospects of an enfranchised, free, democratic and just, post-apartheid society. Importantly, we are also mindful to commemorate this day in 1960, when 69 people were massacred in the infamous Sharpeville shootings, when black South Africans mobilized in an anti-pass law protest. As we reflect on contemporary South Africa, we are mindful of the rights that many continue not to benefit from – through the challenges around safety and security because of high levels of violence, ongoing racialised flashpoints, the disproportionate social ills affecting the poor, stigma and discrimination against other marginalized groups, the unnecessary deaths of children in pit latrines, the State’s reneging of its responsibility to mental health patients in the Life Esidimeni decanting tragedy, etc. – and the psychosocial challenges that instances such as these continue to burden our society with. Further afield, the migration ‘crisis’ has led to serious breaches of human rights; fundamentalisms of various forms are leading to the persecution of many communities; and levels of exploitation continue to strain population health in many contexts. As PsySSA, we believe that this is an opportune moment to advocate for compassion, social justice, equality, and the flattening out of exploitative social hierarchies. We take seriously the mental health consequences of these conditions and how they will adversely affect the already marginalized, the future of our country, and indeed the prospects for a common humanity across the globe. We encourage all South Africans to use this as a time for reaffirming our commitment to a truly just and equitable society, through our everyday actions, through community participation, and through broader social interventions and political commitments by those in leadership. Our hope for all South Africans, and indeed all citizens of the globe, is a future that is truly based on equal rights for all, and we call on all our members to robustly advocate for such a future in whatever spheres they may find themselves.