Projects of the Organisation


Among various projects, that focus on awareness around mental illness and on empowering mental health care users to be involved in advancing their own lives, are the following:

 

The "Walk My Way" consumer advocacy journal, which was successfully launched in April 2005.

The journal is now in its 8th year of existence. Even though the greatest challenge remains low paid subscriptions for hard copies, the journal has become a valuable companion and means for expression and obtaining information on mental health related topics, to many mental health care users who receive it free of charge when they become members of the Gauteng Consumer Advocacy Movement.

The journal is now also being distributed in electronic format to reach a wider audience, not only nationally but also internationally, making the total distribution of the journal estimated at a 2000 readership. (Download electronic issues)

The main focus is on being a voice to the voiceless and showcases the creative talents, which includes visual arts and crafts, poetry and other forms of literary arts, of those living with psychiatric disability.

 

The "Madness Revealed" theatre productions, consists of three seperate plays, where the one, "Chasun's Story" places Schizophrenia under the spotlight, and is based on a true story of one woman's battle and triumph over Schizophrenia. This production brings forth a strong message that mental illness is not a "death sentence" and also depicts various matters related to mental illness which include: the rights of persons with mental illness; challenges in the workplace and society; the experience of psychosis; the importance of medication, treatment compliance and support from family and the community. The second play, "Thandi's Story" looks at Bipolar Mood Disorder, incorporating cultural differences, in this case, where the main character first seeks help from a traditional healer. And "Michael's Story" focusses on Major Depressive Disorder and is based on the true life experiences of Michael Chatwind who was diagnosed with the condition and depicts his journey facing the challenges through the devastating symptoms of severe depression, treatment options (e.g. ECT) and the support and role loved ones play in the recovery process.

 

Central Gauteng Mental Health Society NOW presents “TWO BEDS … MADNESS REVEALED”, a short film about two women who fell victim to mental illness – Chasun with schizophrenia and Thandi with bipolar mood disorder. Both women share their journey that lead to their diagnosis and road to recovery.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR/ EXECUTIVE PRODUCER Charlene Sunkel

“Two Beds ... Madness Revealed” is based on the first two theatre plays I have written and produced on my life experiences with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and the other on bipolar mood disorder with the purpose to raise public awareness on mental illness. These plays form part of Central Gauteng Mental Health Society’s ongoing awareness campaign.

“Two Beds ... Madness Revealed” is a short film that tells the story of two women who fell victim to mental illness. Their devastating symptoms bring them together in a psychiatric hospital where they receive treatment and reflect on their life journey that lead them there. Their road to recovery brought difficult moments and their experiences changed their perceptions of life.

This film will change your perceptions too.

 

 

This production was written by Charlene Sunkel who is also the executive producer, with producer John Malherbe, co-producer Serena Botha, and directed by Jose Domingos. The film starring local actors Tiffany Barbuzano, Lerato Moloi, Jill Middlekop, Nandi Nyembe, Johnny Pienaar, Strini Pillai and Vusi Msane. Sound by Paul Vermaak, cameras by Rijk and Lloyed and editing by John Malherbe.

The film is based on the stories of the theatre plays: “Chasun’s Story” and “Thandi’s Story”.
“Two Beds …” was produced for the purpose to raise public awareness on these mental health conditions and mental illness in general. It is an effective method to educate not only society at large, but also family members and those with a diagnosis which in turn creates hope for them as it shows that mental illness does not mean being a death sentence. Mental illness can be managed by medication and other forms of treatment such as psychotherapy and a healthy lifestyle. Further a positive attitude is vital to regain one’s life and live to the fullest – medical science and self-discovery has advanced in giant leaps which make this possible.

Purchasing the DVD that runs approximately 45 minutes can be a valuable tool to everyone in improving your knowledge, that of your family, colleagues, employees, students, community, etc. The DVD will make you an instrument to raise awareness on mental illness which is a subject that is neglected and avoided whilst the prevalence of mental illness is high and affects thousands, irrespective of age, race, gender, financial status, or occupation. Ignorance further affects the socio-economy of a nation. And the stressful modern world we live in, high crime rates, unemployment and poverty, and HIV/Aids makes us even more susceptive to mental health problems. It is a serious issue and the resolution lies with each one of us.

The DVD is sold at R200 (South African Rands) or $29 USA each where the income generated will be applied to the work of Central Gauteng Mental Health Society (NPO 001-036). Please support this initiative.

 

Modern self help and advocacy in the field of mental health services is rooted in the civil and welfare rights movements of the 1960s, emerging alongside the gay liberation and black civil rights movements in America. However there are records of former psychiatric patients in the 19th century working to change laws and public policies. As long as there have been psychiatric institutions there has been a movement against the injustices suffered within them. Due to advocacy throughout the years, lives of many mental health care users have been changed for the better.

While self-advocacy movements have grown and reached a degree of maturity in the Western world, the establishment of user movements in many other countries including South Africa has lagged behind some 30 years. Advocacy implies creating awareness of the right to quality of life, thus changing the many different areas of one’s own life and those of others for the better. It rests on the belief that all persons are entitled to having their fundamental needs met, and subsequently allows for demands and expectations in this regard to be made, concerning services, employment equity, and societal attitudes in general. To summarise, it includes the creation of a secure and accepting environment towards facilitating the development of every person’s potential.

Central Gauteng Mental Health Society recognized the need for and value of self-advocacy and launched the Gauteng Consumer Advocacy Movement (GCAM) in July 2006. This movement has been extremely successful and has experienced rapid growth with a current membership rate of over 1400 mental health care users. GCAM is the largest and most successful Movement in South Africa.

Since its launch, GCAM has had a major impact on creating awareness around mental illness in terms of reducing ignorance and related discrimination. This has occurred through its committee members from the various regions running groups with mental health care users and their families, assisting them in understanding their mental illness and empowering them to advocate for themselves, and through various and numerous media.

Through its structure, GCAM is perfectly enabled to inform persons with mental disability of their rights and responsibilities. This has resulted in persons with mental disabilities being empowered to access the appropriate treatment and support, improving their general sense of worth and productivity in society. The Movement also engages its members in regular annual recreational and social activities. The GCAM committee also works closely with social workers from Central Gauteng Mental Health Society by co-facilitating awareness sessions and campaigns within the community.

GCAM HAS OVER 1700 MEMBERS.

The Movement is an initiative to give persons with mental disabilities a means to communicate, to exchange opinions, views and experiences in order to support each other in the personal, political and social struggle against injustice, stigma and exclusion.

Aims and Objectives of the Movement:

Programmes include: the training of MHCUs on advocacy and psychosocial rehabilitation; basic skills development; the establishment of support groups; the development of a library of information; campaigning around mental illness and mental health; creating awareness; and representation at conferences and seminars that focus on issues that affect the lives of persons with mental disability.

GCAM engages with communities at grassroots level to ensure education regarding mental disabilities and the rights of persons affected, and create acceptance and understanding of persons with mental disabilities.

GCAM also place specific focus on the open labour market, creating awareness within the workplace and address unfair discrimination when it comes to employing people with psychiatric and intellectual disabilities. According to the outcome of a needs survey conducted by GCAM in July 2008, unemployment came out to be the most pressing need of persons with psychiatric disabilities where 82.6% of participants were unemployed.

A sports and recreational programme also forms part of GCAM’s programmes, where an annual talent show is hosted whereby persons with mental disability participates in various categories, e.g. singing, dancing, short theatre play, and poetry reading, providing the opportunity to showcase artistic talents.

The Movement will continuously promote positive aspects of mental illness and work towards eliminating stigma and discrimination attached to it, eventually laying a foundation within communities and elsewhere to create understanding and to accept people with mental disabilities as human beings, and grant them equal opportunities in life.