to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) 16.5% of the adult
population in South Africa suffer from a mental illness. All these
people are susceptible to experiencing a form of mental health issue at one
point or another.
So what are
mental health issues? In a country with ongoing socio-economic challenges,
poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and traumatic circumstances (amongst other
matters), South Africans tend to suffer from a variety of mental health
challenges, from childhood to late adulthood. This is regardless of race, age,
socio-economic status or religion.
are born with a predisposition to develop a mental health condition (e.g. if it
runs in the family). However, a lot of the time, life challenges and
environmental factors can also contribute.
The day-to-day adult can be affected by high levels of stress, which can
lead to depression or anxiety. For example, someone who has a demanding job and
struggles with supporting their family financially can find themselves being
affected by this both mentally and emotionally. This can lead to problems with
eating, sleeping, mood and concentration. On another extreme there are many
children who have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS or those who lived through our
traumatic political history. All these people are susceptible to experiencing a
form of mental health issue at one or another.
health conditions vary from childhood
disorders (e.g. learning disorders) and cognitive disorders (e.g. dementia) to mood disorders (e.g. depression), substance-related disorders (e.g. substance dependence) and psychotic disorders (e.g.
schizophrenia). There are also mental disorders which affect how we see ourselves, those which apply to how
we eat and sleep and those which
explain how we relate to other people.
This is why it is important to consult with a professional who can assist you
to figure out what could be going with yourself or with a loved one. Nursing
sisters, social workers, registered counsellors, medical doctors, psychologists
and psychiatrists are all in a position to assist you or refer you to someone
way we can end the stigma towards mental illness is by educating ourselves,
speaking about it, reaching out and helping others. We can no longer live in a
society where such a serious issue is hidden in the depths of our communities.
You can be a mental health advocate simply by informing yourself and teaching
“Mental health” refers to the state of our psychological (head) and emotional (heart) well-being. Physical health refers to our bodies and we usually know we are unwell when we start experiencing certain symptoms – a headache, a fever, low energy levels or an unfamiliar rash. However, with mental health issues, there are no such “obvious” symptoms. This is what makes mental health issues so difficult to understand for many people.
While some mental conditions have physical symptoms too (e.g. changes in sleeping patterns and appetite), it is the psychological and emotional difficulties which are “hidden” and therefore difficult to pick up. It can also be difficult for someone experiencing such symptoms to describe what they actually feel like. Someone with depression can be assumed to just feel “sad” however, the actual internal experience is much more intense than the sadness we all feel at certain times.
The truth is that mental health applies to everyone – men and women; young and old; wealthy and disadvantaged. No one is immune to a mental health condition. There are instances where some people are at a higher prevalence of developing a condition at some point (e.g. due to family history or an environmental circumstance), however many people may experience mood disorders, trauma reactions and substance-related disorders without any obvious contributing factors.
As a society, we are only now becoming more and more exposed to the reality of mental health conditions and challenges. In the past, people used to keep their mental health struggles to themselves – pretending that they were okay and would struggle internally. However, as time has gone on we are becoming more and more open about the prevalence of psychological disorders and how they affect our daily lives. It is important to end the stigma around mental illnesses so we can ensure that people access the assistance that they need.
Mental health practitioners, such as psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers, are professionals who assist individuals who may be struggling with a mental condition. Upon consultation they are able to determine the best management of the condition – which could be medication, psychotherapy, skills development or environmental changes. Either way, seeing a professional allows people to express themselves, describe their symptoms and work out a plan to deal with the issue.
It is also important for us to be supportive to those who are struggling. We need to be open to listening to what someone has to say; advise them of where they can get assistance; and check in to see if they are sticking to their treatment plan. To end the stigma we need to make mental illness less taboo and more normalised, so that we can heal as a nation and as a society.
Workplace wellness is any workplace health promotion activity or organizational policy designed to support healthy behaviour in the workplace and to improve health outcomes. It often comprises activities such as health education, medical screenings, weight management programs, on-site fitness programs or facilities. The five recommended elements of a good programme are work-life balance, health and safety, employee growth and development, employee recognition and employee Involvement. Workplace wellness programmes can be categorized as primary, secondary, or tertiary prevention efforts, or an employer can implement programs that have elements of multiple types of prevention.
Primary prevention programmes usually target a fairly healthy employee population, and encourage them to more frequently engage in health behaviours that will encourage ongoing good health. An example of primary prevention programmes include stress management, and exercise and healthy eating promotion.
Secondary prevention programs are targeted at reducing behaviour that is considered a risk factor for poor health. Examples of such programs include smoking cessation programs and screenings for high blood pressure or other cardiovascular disease related risk factors.
Tertiary health programs address existing health problems, and aim to help control or reduce symptoms, or to help slow the progression of a disease or condition. Such programs might encourage employees to better adhere to specific medication or self-managed care guidelines.
The lifestyles of people in the workforce are important both for the sake of their own health and for the sake of their employer’s productivity. Companies often subsidize these programs in the hope that they will save companies money in the long run by improving health, morale and productivity, although there is some controversy about evidence for the levels of return on investment. Companies must ensure that their health promotion efforts do not place employee health at risk to reach targets nor abuse medical privacy.
Non-controversial examples of workplace wellness organizational policies include allowing flex-time for exercise, providing on-site kitchen and eating areas, offering healthy food options in vending machines, holding “walk and talk” meetings, and offering financial and other incentives for participation. In recent years, workplace wellness has been expanded from single health promotion interventions to create a more overall healthy environment including, for example standards of building and interior design to promote physical activity. This expansion is largely been in part to creating greater access and leadership support from leaders in the participating companies.
In South Africa, medical aid providers are at the forefront of wellness activities for their members, and so is the national government which has adopted the ‘Primary Health Care Approach’; this approach views health promotion as a significant function that reduces the burden of disease to the public health system. In simple, the more people exercise and maintain healthy lifestyles equals the less people requiring medical support from public hospitals, and that informs the drive to install public gym facilities in communities.
Many corporate workplaces offer medical aid contributions which subsidize the cost of health coverage at private facilities to their employees, which forms part of their wellness contributions, however this alone is not enough to ensure employees maintain good health. Companies lose productivity hours if their employees are off sick because they have the flu or back pain, morale is low or poor because employees are frustrated and stressed out at work – which may be because of workplace stress or personal matters – and for this it is imperative that companies ensure that they make good efforts to support their employees mental and physical health.
People who work at places they enjoy being in and experience reduced levels of stress and frustration tend to stay longer at those companies and perform better, which has benefits for the company. It is a great idea that growing companies develop innovative and exciting wellness programmes that make their workers enjoy a more quality life.
** Portions of this post were cited from Wikipedia.
While the news of a shrinking economy does not alarm some of us in the nonprofit sector, who have been engaging business-at-large vigorously to support community initiatives to bleak responses, it is worrisome what this means for the country.
Our society is burdened with social injustices and inequality that is seen nowhere else in the world at this scale; this, coupled with the levels of poverty and unemployment that persist, spells pending doom that may see this country experiencing higher rates of violent crime, corruption, looting and a decline of the social cohesion we have worked so tirelessly to foster.
At a time like this, corporations need to demonstrate bold and decisive leadership which looks beyond short-term profits and declares that this here land is home and we are all here to stay; because when you call a place home you make it so by investing in some paint, furniture, reinforce walls and make it livable: something which it increasingly isn’t for many in the far flung communities referred to as rural.
The recent debate over a fuel retailer’s employee whose selfless act saw many donate and pay it forward, further divided commentators when the retailer joined in on the PR roller-coaster. One problem that peaks out when you consider their haste to get involved is similar to that which exists throughout corporate SA. The decision to publicly acknowledge their employees act of kindness as unique and compelling, should have been met with the embrace of existing personnel development initiatives within the organization. It speaks to a public relations and human resources environment that neither speaks to each other or completely disregards the values enshrined in their wonderfully written annual reports and business plans.
Corporations have staff development and training programmes, which start at the retail floor from something as simple as an employee of the month programme; which is what the normal process of acknowledging this employees act would follow. Thereafter, top management would drill in on this special case due to the media attention and review the employees performance over a certain period and elect to enrol him into their leadership development programmes. This would make sense and prevent staff demoralization, which i suspect may occur from how this whole thing unfolded, not to mention that this should effectively equip the employee with the skills that would serve him the rest of his career and life.
It is further disingenuous to ask said employee to nominate a cause worthy of receiving a donation from the retailer for an amount of money he, himself may never see in his lifetime. This may have been in lieu of paying him a bonus and thus upsetting the personnel ecosystem. This further raises our ire because bringing up those figures against the backdrop of employees, like the one being commended and glorified, who earn meagre incomes that may not meet their monthly needs, is like a smack in the face of all who feel the pain of low-wage earners across the country, further strained by this shrinking economy.
It is reminiscent of what Supplier Development programmes similarly do, on-boarding small businesses into the programme to develop them while maintaining a separate database for companies who actually supply them, and never shall the two converge. It reminds us of the commitments that big business makes about investing in our local economy only to learn much later that those same corporations hyper-inflate prices of bread, airtime and cement, manipulate our currency and misrepresent financial results. In a country where the King Codes on governance demand good faith transacting, it seems there isn’t much of that currency going around.
It is this same good faith we need in the civil society, where big business commits to work with public and non-government institutions to radically reduce inequality and poverty. We need immediate support of impactful programmes that get young South Africans busy, utilizing their hard earned degrees to shape up our economy, provide assistance to state institutions as the public workforce has not and cannot grow fast enough or large enough to support and police all the bureaucratic and legislative policies that have been adopted in this land. Policies such as the Protection of Personal Information Act and the Consumer Protection Act cannot see their full potential otherwise.
While I dare not advocate for a larger public workforce, it is imperative that we start seeing real public-private partnerships underpinned by good-faith. We need bold leaders that see beyond the politics of the day and near-term profits, and who can unashamedly walk into a conference of its investors and make a compelling argument for long-term investment in our country, so that one day we may have another heart-warming advertisement about the richest square mile in Africa, lending its wealth for the upliftment of the square mile right next to it.
Giving food parcels to disaster-stricken and impoverished communities is not sustainable. We, at Almal Foundation, have done this many times before and we continue to do so as it is a necessary intervention, particularly in emergency situations.
Nevertheless, we understand that this practice is not sustainable, as the beneficiaries continue to need supplies and support which becomes harder and harder to give – think of the analogy of giving a man a fish, as opposed to a fishing net.
Disaster relief is one of the most inefficient, costliest and more frustrating campaigns that a growing organization can take on. To summarize, you put out a call to society at large (and with the advent of social media this is a global community) for support and donations. People either don’t trust you enough to donate money, prefer to give the aging food and clothing items already in their house or see the call-to-action and contribute to a local or office collection pool that buys and donates these items to your organization. As the organization collecting these donations, you must now make means to traverse all these locations collecting and thanking, packaging and cleaning (clothes must be washed as a policy because some donors will not wash the clothes they give). This onerous task must happen within set timelines because the beneficiaries need that stuff, pronto, obviously! The absolute worst part of this is that, if you ask for these items and receive them, and then make a second call the next week or month for more, because obviously the beneficiaries are still in need – because bodies need constant replenishing – the donors are shocked that that problem still exists, and now registers much lower on their conscious which means no more donations for that cause.
The bigger organizations understand that to play in this space, you need to establish partnerships and long-term agreements with food retailers and large business because that lowers your logistical obligations and can be co-ordinated better. However unfortunate, this pushes out smaller players from the space. This can be problematic, given that reaching the remote parts of the country requires smaller organizations in those communities to bring attention to the community’s needs.
The cost of all of this ends up being more than you would expect, and this diminishes the value of the support being provided. If every person who donated a tin can of fish rather donated the value of that item, that money could be pooled together with other donations of similar value which would then allow the organization to purchase food and other items at discounted bulk rates, meaning more food, and because it is being purchased closer to the communities, lower transportation and storage costs.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when you consider what this means for local development. I believe in an approach that sees communities in need, being the ones who are ultimately tasked with uplifting themselves, and this can be achieved by directing food purchases to farmers and businesses closer to the affected communities, which in a small way stimulates economic activity in that area. Secondly, funds collected can be used to train and then equip locals to rebuild damaged homes and infrastructure, paying them stipends and imparting skills in the community.
We work aggressively to build relationships with small business owners, who employ the bulk of society and are found in the heart of communities. We want to work with the people who have to live and work in these communities, and we want to create a network of active citizens who show up for each other and do sustainable good. We want to buy food from the small-scale farmers who live in the rural communities that we purport to support, and help them.
Lastly, sustainable good must respect the dignity of its beneficiaries. This is the most sacred part of what we do. Southern Africa is plagued by poverty, inequality and social injustice and we believe that the over-arching values that must be maintained across the board in this pursuit, is in respecting the dignity of all, especially here at the cradle of humankind. It is incredible what we can achieve when we respect and honour those who are most in need in the same way we do those who have more than they need, we simply have to remember that sisonke sibambisene – we’re all working together.
Simphiwe Ngema is the Executive Chairperson of Almal Foundation npc and a Human Resources professional. – 05 June 2019
Boundaries help. Recently, I told my child’s father that he cannot call or text me after 9pm. He cannot come to my mother’s house as-and-when he pleases, especially not while smelling of alcohol or cigarettes.
Khulisa Magazine is one of the most awesome projects we have worked on at Almal Foundation. I am very excited to be producing the very first issue.
Being that the magazine is launched on Women’s Month, it was imperative that this issue resonate with the current mood of society when it comes to the issues close to the hearts of women, like myself.
Lately, a number of discussions around feminism and what it means have been debated amongst various forums and social network discussion boards. Whilst the answer tends to be different for different people, we have tried to gather as many different voices and stories about different women in different parts of society.
I believe we can all learn from each other and work towards a society that does not see the liberation of women as a threat to it but rather as a boon that can help liberate society from its social ills.
The purpose of this magazine is to showcase the actions of small organizations such as ours, and the impact that these initiatives have in society. We want our readers to see the value of supporting non-profit organizations and to feel like they are a part of us by staying in touch through this publication.
The most humbling of activities was the opportunity to engage with Mayor Mkhulisi, a powerhouse with strong leadership credentials. We had the honour of sitting down with Her Excellency and learning more about her and what she understands Women’s month to mean.
Readers can look forward to her interview and plenty of other useful articles from other impressive young ladies in our society.
Future editions will be published by guest-editors, as part of the magazines purpose of empowering young leaders with experiential learning opportunities. See you soon!
For my Women’s month message I am going to refer to a quote you’ve probably seen before: ‘Here’s to strong women, may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them’
In this new age of ever-evolving technology we find ourselves in the midst of new systems, cultures and trends – one such culture is social media. Its adoption, across the world, has been phenomenal even since its rebirth in the early 2000s when Mark Zuckerberg developed his Facebook.
Fast-forward to 2017, young and trendy Africans are using social media to advance social, political and practically any other kind of cause. In the world of social media it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, if your message is important and connects with the social community it will spread like a wildfire. This poses certain threats and opportunities, and one such opportunities is that of social influencers. Influencers are characters who are relied upon and trusted by their followers for information regarding any and most topics. Influencers range from bloggers and vloggers to social media commentators and the opinions of these particular individuals have the power to stage a national shutdown of universities or kick-start a music career of a previously-unknown teenager.
“In my second year, my mom passed away in September right before my exams. Funny enough I passed that year & went on as if nothing happened but I had a delayed reaction to her death. The next year I fell into a depression & I hated campus life & having to be around people. I stuck it out for a while but I just wasn’t focused or interested in my studies because I was in a lot of pain. I left & took time out for myself”
Recent studies have indicated that social influencers are beginning to surpass traditional brands and celebrities when it comes to influencing consumer spending habits. Marketers are developing stronger ties with influencers and spending more of their marketing budgets developing influencer campaigns. In the US, the industry is already worth over a billion dollars.
We got in touch with a young and influential lady, Nosipho Z. Mtshali, to ask her about her experience and views on the matter. Although she would argue she isn’t at all an influencer, her social media profiles combined enjoy a following of at least 50 000 users, and we’re just curious what all those people want to hear from her.
Off the bat, the first thing you learn about Nos, as she is affectionately known, is that she is an open and engaged individual. She has no qualms telling you about the more personal parts of her life and you automatically find a kinship with her. It is always easy to relate to someone who is open about her life unashamedly, and it allows you to share about yourself as well. There is an air of growth and awareness to her, she speaks of the importance of watching what you put out into the world because so many young and impressionable people are watching, and of her responsibility in speaking honestly of the issues that matter most to her.
As a young person of influence, she wants to make sure she speaks on the issues and topics that are relevant to her, and on top of that list is the welfare of women in our country. “Every day our timelines are filled with missing girls/women, stories of human trafficking, assault and rape & just how society fails women every day & it is so important for us to fight for ourselves and each other every day. So many terrible things have happened & are happening to women in SA right now when it’s supposed to be a month of celebrating women & I just want to say that I will do my part in always speaking up about women’s issues & I hope others do the same. Women are magic & they deserve so much more & I hope the trials we face never dim our light”
Nos is working with ClickMedia via the Voov SA campaign. VOOV is a live streaming platform where people learn more about a person, their daily life or whatever you choose to show them; “I’m enjoying it a lot because it’s made me way more open about myself & just general issues and allows people to see a more in depth side of me.” We’re living in interesting times where young people are beginning to be a bigger influence in campaigns they’re a part of, as it makes the user experience more authentic and personal. Young people are beginning to define the world they live in for themselves, and that is the growing power of social connectivity.
Being an only child hasn’t made a recluse of her, in fact she is quite vocal, even of the estrangement between herself and her father’s side of the family. She attributes her candidness to stem from her recovery from a depressive state, which affected her after losing her mother in her second year of study. In South Africa, as many as one in six people suffer from anxiety, depression or substance abuse-problems, and seldom do people get the diagnosis or treatment they desperately need for depression. I find it important to learn from even the people we look at as famous and popular that they also suffer from things such as depression, as it helps someone else fight the stigma related to mental illness as it affects anyone but can be treated.
“My role model will always be my mom as cliché as it sounds. She’s the strongest woman I know. I watched her raise me all by herself & she was an amazing mom at that. But I also watched her fight for her life in hospital & for the longest time I thought she didn’t fight hard enough to stay here with me & harboured a lot of anger, but now I understand it was God’s Will.”
Nosipho accepts that people are more trusting of influencers over celebrities and attributes this to the relationship between influencers and their audiences. A study indicated that influencers with followers fewer than a hundred thousand tend to be more connected and engaged with their audience, making their engagements more organic and as Nosipho puts it, “more girl-next-door”. When speaking on topics it is difficult to choose what to share and what to leave out, and Nosipho goes all in. You get a full experience of who she is and what she thinks and feels. That matters.
She also loves the power that social media gives her. To be able to speak truth to power and address uneasy social subjects and bring to book, by way of social justice, anyone and everyone who offends the society. No one is safe, even brands get the collective justice, take for example the recent uproar over Outsurance’s Father’s Day campaign. I concur with Nosipho in that the reason why brands tend to miss the mark is that they seldom relate to the mass public and the fact the entertainment industry really does recycle the same faces over and over again. Someday soon they really do need to open up the industry to more talents, because social media penetration and the internet in general will bypass traditional media in providing entertainment to the masses.
Even Nosipho admits to the power of her looks, and even goes as far as saying it is responsible for a chunk of her follower base but this doesn’t define her brand. She has had to grow and bear the boons and burdens of social media, the negative comments and the downright spiteful. She explains simply that she did not want to be known as being mean and that maybe you don’t have to respond to every negative person.
In South Africa and Africa, there are still many opportunities for young people to use technology, and as in this instance social media, to create work and success for themselves. The world is still looking to Africa as the new economic frontier, it will need not just translators but personalities who can engage effectively with people, brands will need to understand diverse groups and social patterns and the people who will know these things and be able to be the bridge between brands and society, will be people like Nosipho; who can type a few characters into her phone and make your day just a little bit better.
Sometimes you have to cancel personal plans at the eleventh hour and your family just has to understand. I cannot express this hurt but I believe it is part of the struggle. – HE Nonhle Mkhulisi, Mayor of King Cetshwayo District Municipality
The recent mudslides disaster in Freetown, Sierra Leone opened my eyes wider to the reality of the relationship between Africa and the rest of the world. I’m bewildered at the realisation that Africa almost
only sees itself through the eyes of other world communities.