By Karl Swain and Kirsten Clark
To kickstart National Mental Health Awareness month in July, mental health care patients, caregivers, practitioners, public and private sector service providers, non-profit organizations and benefactors launched the Mental Health Advocacy Movement with the first ‘Step up for Mental Health’ activity on 02 July 2016 on Durban’s beachfront. This was an initiative of the KZN Mental Health Advocacy Group, formed last year after the inaugural Durban Mental Health Symposium in October 2015. The Mental Health Advocacy Group is an initiative of the mental health care practitioners based at King Dinuzulu Psychiatric Hospital in Durban and is supported by the KZN Department of Health, the KZN branch of PsySSA, the South African Society for Clinical Psychology (PsySSA’s Clinical Psychology division), the Durban Practicing Psychologists Group, the South African Society of Psychiatrists, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), Discovery Health, Sanofi Aventis, and Akeso Psychiatric Clinics. Organizations and institutions represented on the day were UKZN Howard College’s Student Society For Psychology (supported by the KZN Branch of PsySSA), SADAG, Alzheimers SA, Durban and Coastal Mental Health Society, Rehabilitation and Upliftment Foundation (RAUF), Healing Hills, Akeso Psychiatric Hospitals, Ekuhlengeni Provincial Hospital, Nurture, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and Bessie Makhatini Foundation for Dementia Care. This vibrant group of organizations engaged with participants providing much needed information, advice, pamphlets and displaying the creative handicrafts of chronic mental health care users. A 350+ strong group that ranged from babies in prams to senior citizens braved what must have been one of Durban’s coldest mornings to walk for the cause. The Mental Health Advocacy Group plans to make this an annual, and possibly a national, event.