To get South Africans talking about conditions like depression and anxiety, a leading pharmaceutical company, Pharma Dynamics and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), have teamed up with celebrities to launch the first-ever online and social media project of its kind in the country to break the stigma around these and other mental health issues.
The campaign, called “Let’s Talk”, is open to anyone whose life has been affected by a mental illness, whether as a sufferer, carer, friend or relative. For the first time, they will be able to share their stories and experiences in a short film, which will honestly and openly discuss the impact of depression and anxiety on ordinary people.
Local celebs get on board
Celebrities such as Michael Mol (The Dr Mol Show), Ewan Strydom (Expresso) and Katlego Maboe (Expresso) have all thrown their weight behind this massive awareness campaign in an effort to remove the stigma around mental health issues.
The three stars are not just sticking their famous names to a cause, but have each had first-hand experience – either as a patient or as a loved one to someone living with mental health problems – which has led to their active involvement in the campaign.
In the invitational video each of them dives into their very personal experiences of either being confronted with or dealing with the reality of mental illness in their families or others close to them.
Express your battle
Mariska Fouche, Public Affairs Manager for Pharma Dynamics, one of SA’s leading providers of generic central nervous system (CNS) medication for depression and anxiety says these personal revelations from celebrities help shed light on mental health disorders and treatments that can assist.
“People often tend to be fearful of mental health related issues, because they know very little about it. Sufferers may feel isolated and helpless, and that ‘normal’ people don’t understand what they go through. They face prejudice and stigma, despite the fact that research indicates that up to one in five of us will or does suffer from a mental health condition,” says Fouche.
Those who want to share their stories are encouraged to express their battle with or triumph over mental illness, such as depression and anxiety, through writing, painting, poetry, music, dance, video clips, photographs or montage as all these artistic expressions will be captured in the film.
It is estimated that 20% of South Africans will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lifetime, yet only about 27% will seek treatment, which means that nearly 75% of mentally ill people go undiagnosed, supported or cared for, according to figures from SADAG – Africa’s leading mental health advocacy group.
One of the major reasons for this is the stigma surrounding mental conditions and the notion that those affected need to “snap out of it” or are “bewitched” or otherwise “crazy”. Yet, with proper diagnosis and medication, many can continue to lead fulfilling and productive lives.
Cassey Chambers of SADAG says it’s more than possible to manage mental illness.
“Often loneliness, fear, confusion, embarrassment and alienation are serious obstacles on the road to diagnosis and treatment. ‘Let’s Talk’ is a step forward in getting more of those affected on the road to recovery.”
(Press release, August 2012)
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