The Speak Your Mind Campaign (SYM campaign) is a global campaign aimed at mobilising communities, raising awareness of mental health, and holding the government accountable for its continued inaction towards mental health. The campaign is aimed at fast-tracking the rights of people with mental disabilities, breaking stigma and discrimination, and helping to bring mental health out of the shadows.
The Speak Your Mind Community Engagement Project (SYM project) is a SYM Campaign initiative that is led by the South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) in partnership with Comic Relief, a well renowned UK-based funding organisation.
The initial objectives for the SYM project were to host a series of community engagement activities across all the nine provinces, in collaboration with the SAFMH Mental Health Societies and their mental health care users. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and safety measures such as social distancing, restrictions on travel and gatherings, the project’s face-to-face activities had to be revised to accommodate these restrictions, while also focusing on still achieving the project’s objectives. The community engagement activities were thus instead conducted through video recordings, aimed at showcasing and capturing the voices and experiences of the Mental Health Societies and the mental health care users they serve to help raise awareness of important community issues and to advocate for increased mental health resourcing.
The video recordings include interviews with Mental Health Societies, other mental health service providers, and mental health care users, along with footage about the organisations, projects that the organisations run or support such as protective workshops, support groups, or residential programmes.
A pilot of the project was done in August 2020 with Port Elizabeth Mental Health. After a successful pilot, the project was further rolled out in September 2020 to five other Mental Health Societies, namely North Gauteng Mental Health, Uitenhage Mental Health, Central Gauteng Mental Health, Limpopo Mental Health, and Mpumalanga Mental Health.
The organisations were supported to do the filming themselves, thus providing a useful media skills development opportunity. The videos were then produced into mini-documentary videos and shorter social media clips aimed at assisting organisations to raise awareness about their work and highlight needs related to their work in communities across South Africa.
SAFMH is excited to start with the second phase of the project in April 2021, which will involve four additional Mental Health Societies, namely Laudium Mental Health, Northern Cape Mental Health, Cape Mental Health, and Pietermaritzburg Mental Health.
The second phase of the project will be approached differently as some of the lockdown restrictions have been lifted. A filming crew will be travelling across the country to film and record interviews with the Mental Health Societies, other mental health service providers, and mental health care users, as well as capturing any additional footage about the organisations and projects that they are currently running.
SAFMH would like to thank the Mental Health Societies for their participation in the project and hopes that the project will bring awareness to mental health challenges experienced by their communities and the different services they provide to their communities. The SYM project will bring awareness to South Africa’s current state of mental health and the importance of prioritising mental health resources and greater investment in mental health services and resources.