Durban - The number of people turning to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) this year has soared to 3 000 a day from 600.
Sadag operations director Cassey Chambers said the organisation had overcome many obstacles to ensure its counsellors would be available to help everyone in crisis.
“It is something we monitor every day to make sure we can keep up with the demand, especially over the festive season. Now with load shedding, we have had to come up with various ways for people to reach out. They can try SMS, WhatsApp, email or contact us from social media and our toll-free helpline. We want to make sure we have all these platforms available for people,” said Chambers.
Sadag has trained more volunteers, installed new helpline apps and carried out more training and debriefing for volunteers to deal with the influx of calls and complex issues.
Chambers said they understood that their counsellors had their own personal grief and losses, so they provided debriefing and daily support groups so the helpers could continue helping others.
“We make sure we look after our counsellors. Sometimes the cases they deal with can be hectic and heavy so we offer free debriefing, daily check-ins with the counsellors on shift and support groups to give them a safe space and support for their struggles. Our supervisors provide them with support too,” she said.
Chambers said that while people were opening presents or having their lunch, volunteers were on standby for those who were not feeling merry.
“Christmas is not so happy for everyone like the movies and adverts tell us it should be. A lot of people are depressed, overwhelmed and stressed, and this year has been difficult. Some people are anxious, burned out and down. The most important thing to do is to encourage people and tell them that it is okay not to be okay. The festive season does not have to be just like the movies. They have someone to speak to who is available 24/7.”
With more than 250 counsellors, 160 support groups and over 30 helplines, people in distress can call or WhatsApp at 011 234 4837 or SMS 31393, and a counsellor will call them back. Sadag is also available on social media to get daily tips and information on medication management.
The Independent on Saturday