Fight Against Stigma Of Mental Illness- NPO Works With Kids From The Cape Flats

An NPO is discussing mental illness with the youth to break the stigma and help those in need, access the help and support they require.

Salesian Life Choices invited pupils to design posters that depict aspects of depression as part of the Health4Life initiative. The winning poster, designed by Hannah Goslett of Belgravia High School, has a powerful message: The words ‘I am the victim of my own pain’ are illustrated by a stark black, red and white image of a girl enchained by her negative emotions.

Her poster has been used on social media and distributed to 19 high schools where talks about mental health issues help raise awareness, especially in terms of the signs and symptoms of depression.

“One of the focus areas of the organization is to run health awareness campaigns and provide youth friendly health services in schools. We work in adolescent health for two main reasons. Research has shown roughly 70% of premature deaths among adults can be linked to behavior initiated during adolescence.”

“Secondly, while it is commonly accepted that young people enjoy better health than older people, almost 15% of diseases and injuries that burden the world population happen to youth,” – Sofia Neves, director of Salesian Life Choices

Sofia continues by saying some of the most important public health issues start during childhood. They are depression, substance use, smoking, sexually transmitted infections, unplanned pregnancies and trauma injuries among others.

“Salesian Life Choices runs youth-lead campaigns in school addressing these issues. The campaigns have the format of interactive health talks after school”

Salesian Life Choices has psycho-social support as part of all their interventions with youth from the Cape Flats.

“Based on our experience, we felt that depression should be the first health issue targeted by the health campaigns. Our counselors make an effort to help young people distinguish between normal teenage emotional turmoil (feelings such as moodiness or grief after a traumatic event) and persistent and debilitating negative emotions that could indicate depression. We encourage youth to speak openly about the things they’re grappling with so we can refer serious cases to health professionals,” – Tatenda Mawoyo, NPO Programme Manager

“For children living in communities plagued by violence, traumatisation is a perpetual and chronic condition. Most cases of depression and anxiety in teenagers we encounter are linked to trauma.”

The programme was developed to specifically work with youth from troubled areas. It is proven within these areas that men show a much higher risk of developing depression. This is usually covered up by alcohol and drug abuse, thus creating a vicious cycle.

“The rate of depression amongst South African men is at an all-time high. That is why more mental health education is so important, we need to tell young people it’s okay to seek help.” – Tatenda

The stigma around mental illness is slowly starting to change as more and more people and role models come forward. South African comedian Trevor Noah recently said his early brush with poverty and abuse at the hands of his stepfather contributed to his depression. He has been widely praised for opening up about his mental illness.

The winning poster, designed by Hannah Goslett of Belgravia High School can be seen below.

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