Picture: Facebook
Cape Town - "There is actually a fine line between so-called 'normal' people and people in psychiatric institutions. People think they can never end up at a psychiatric institution. But the truth is, anyone can end up there."

These were words said by Shariefa Jacobs, a volunteer at the Friends of Valkenberg Trust.

The Friends of Valkenberg Trust is an NPO working very closely with hospital staff at Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital. Their aim is to give service users (the patients) a purpose and to teach skills that they can use when they get out of the hospital.

These skills are things that many of us tend to take for granted, such as cooking, sewing and arts and crafts. However it's different for service users.

" When they leave hospital, they go back to communities and use skills to gain employment."

Most of the patients come from disadvantaged communities and others have little family or support base.

Research says that 16.5% of South Africans suffer from common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety and 17% of children and adolescents suffer from mental disorders, while almost one in five women had suicidal thoughts.

The volunteers at Friends of Valkenberg Trust are not merely volunteers. They form part of what they call the multi-disciplinary team, which consists of psychiatrists, nurses and occupational therapists. All members of this team "help them in the next step and to find a purpose."

As with most work, there are highlights and challenges. The biggest highlight for Jacobs was to see the optimism and motivation on their faces after they have completed 'simple' tasks.

"They say 'I can go home now', or 'I will give the arts and crafts to my family and they will appreciate it' or they will express their intentions to sell it."

The biggest challenge that volunteers face is that some patients have difficulty focusing on what needs to be done, due to the side effects of the heavy medication.

To make a donation to Friends of Valkenberg Trust, click here.

If you would like to make a donation directly to their bank account, contact the office on 021-4472092 for the bank details or alternatively, email [email protected]

* As part of our #WeCareWednesdays campaign, each week IOL will feature an organisation that needs a helping hand.

Read last week's feature here.