Recap of SAFMH World Mental Health Day 2023 Event

SAFMH News Room

10 October marks World Mental Health Day annually and to celebrate this year The SA Federation for Mental Health hosted a very successful event at our offices.

It was a wonderful day spent with colleagues, some of whom we had not yet met in person before! The theme for this year’s WMHD, as set by The World Federation for Mental Health, is ‘Mental Health is a Universal Human Right’. To honour the global theme, we ensured that we remembered the mental health care users whose human rights were violated in the Life Esidimeni tragedy. Thanks to Section 27, SADAG, Harriet Perlman and Mark Lewis, we had a recorded memory of their stories through the Life Esidimeni Exhibition, which we were able to have on display during our event.

The morning started with a lovely welcome from SAFMH Deputy Director, Leon de Beer, who reminded everyone of why we were gathered together on WMHD. First to speak was the incomparable Christine Nxumalo who is a member of the Life Esidimeni Family Committee. Christine did not mince her words when sharing about why she does the work she does. She also shared an update regarding Life Esidimeni.

Where we are after that is we are still having meetings with the Department where they still haven’t paid claims of some of the families, so you can still see the injustice of this process.”

We are so thankful to our friends at The South African Depression & Anxiety Group (SADAG) for their presence on the day and to Stacey Coconas, SADAG Support Group Coordinator, for sharing more about the benefits of joining one of their support groups. SADAG also brought along their ‘Human Library’, which all attendees thoroughly enjoyed engaging with. A wonderful reminder that sharing stories is a crucial element for ending mental health stigma.

Our global partners, United for Global Mental Health, were also in the room and represented by Aviwe Funani who shared about how youth and adolescent mental health needs to be prioritised. She also shared a video from their partners at the Being Initiative which you can watch here. Youth mental health is a big focus for SAFMH as well, as we’ve recently launched our Mental Health Youth Advocacy and Advisory Forum. A member of the Forum, Michela Thorns, shared an empowered message of why young people need to care about mental health right now.

We ended off the programme with the screening of a short film we did in partnership with Masiviwe. The film is focused on stigma and told through the stories of persons with lived experience of mental health conditions. It was amazing to be able to celebrate some of the people who shared their stories on the day. You can watch the film below.

In between all the incredible messages shared, there was meaningful and engaging connections made between all attendees. Our event also made the pages of the Randburg Sun. You can read the article here.

I loved the WMHD2023 event. The powerful stories shared by the speakers, SADAG’s human library, and the Life Esidimeni exhibition remain with me today. These stories guide me to fiercely advocate that everyone everywhere in South Africa should have the right to access quality, rights-based, evidence-based, affordable and culturally sensitive mental health services.” – Shayni Geffen, SAFMH Project Leader: Advocacy and Awareness

On behalf of the SA Federation for Mental Health, we sincerely thank everyone who took time out to spent World Mental Health Day with us. It was an absolute pleasure and we can’t wait to do it all again next year!

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