Stigma and discrimination are among the biggest barriers that persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities face in South Africa. As the country’s largest mental health federation, SAFMH is at the forefront of raising awareness on mental health with the intension of diminishing stigma and discrimination that is deeply ingrained in society
In order to ensure that our awareness efforts reach everyone everywhere, SAFMH works with 17 Mental Health Societies [community based organisations in all nine provinces across South Africa] to spread mental health awareness to the broad public
Through various public campaigns, throughout the year, we are able to contribute to making South Africa a place where everyone’s mental health matters. Through these awareness campaigns we aim to enrich the public discourse around mental health and also foster responsible language were mental health is concerned.
As part of our awareness and public education into mental health SAFMH uses:
In addition to the daily promotion of mental health rights, SAFMH runs wider public campaigns on a yearly basis. Every year the organisation focuses on three main annual awareness month programmes in consultation with mental health care users (MHCUs).
These awareness campaigns are structured as follows
1. Intellectual disability awareness month – March
This campaign focuses on educating the public about persons living with intellectual disability, highlighting the valuable contribution they make to society while at the same time bringing to light some of the societal and attitudinal barriers they face in exercising their human rights
2. Psychosocial disability awareness month – July
Psychosocial disability awareness month is aimed at raising awareness around the prevalence of mental health problems in our country and identifying some of the policy gaps that compound the challenges of inaccessible mental health care services for everyone in the country. This awareness month is also used to draw public awareness into the fact that no one is immune to mental health challenges through identifying some of the social risks associated with the development of mental illness
3. Mental health awareness month – October
During the month of October SAFMH is able to educate the public around the pervasive nature of the mental health matters. Each year we commemorate this month through supporting the theme of the World Federation for Mental Health
Throughout the year, SAFMH publishes regular press releases, opinion pieces and articles on all things mental health. We also commemorate mental health and other health and human rights-related awareness days, weeks and month.
As an organisation, we know that awareness plays an important role in breaking down negative perceptions and eradicating stigma and discrimination. It is through continuous public education that we will be able to get rid of intolerant attitudes towards persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities.