#BraveTogether: Getting help for mental health is now just a WhatsApp away

Medical doctor Dr Nokukhanya Khanyile is part of the #BraveTogether campaign. Supplied image.

Medical doctor Dr Nokukhanya Khanyile is part of the #BraveTogether campaign. Supplied image.

Published Jun 5, 2022


Johannesburg - Whether you are media personality Roxy Burger, medical doctor Dr Nokukhanya Khanyile or fellow medical practitioner and yoga teacher Dr Anesu Mbizvo, life’s challenges can be draining.

The Covid-19 pandemic has put mental health in the spotlight as millions across the globe are still reeling from the effects of the novel coronavirus.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) says that mental ailments such as anxiety and depression do not discriminate and that people from all walks of life are at risk.

In a bid to come to the aid of mental health sufferers in South Africa, the non-profit organisation has teamed up with global beauty brand Maybelline New York as well as Burger, Khanyile and Mbizvo for their #BraveTogether campaign.

This special project, which was launched late last month, will see a dedicated WhatsApp counselling chat line available everyday from 8 am-5pm.

Sadag and the trio also hosted an Instagram Live this week to chat about #BraveTogether and to encourage people to talk about mental health.

“The initiative aims to create safe spaces for people dealing with depression and anxiety to reach out for help and encourage more people to seek help and support,” Sadag operations director Cassey Chambers explained.

She added that many people don’t know how to seek or access help for their mental health concerns or are too afraid to talk about it and don’t seek help.

“Being able to connect with a counsellor via WhatsApp any day of the week, wherever you are, is providing a safe space for more people to reach out for free help,” Chambers said.

“Whether they are at work, school, home or on the bus – they can access free help through their WhatsApp. Help is literally a message away.”

Over the past two years, Maybelline New York facilitated global expert-led research and conducted focus groups to better understand mental health as the deadly virus began to erupt every corner of the globe.

They have also been working with non-profit partners globally to have a tangible impact on people struggling with anxiety and depression.

“Maybelline has always believed in the power of making things happen in your life and we know that mental health is critical in feeling ready to do that,” said Trisha Ayyagari, global brand president of Maybelline New York.

The #BraveTogether campaign encourages South Africans to speak about their problems. Supplied image.

“We want to use our global voice to de-stigmatise the conversation around mental health and make support easily accessible, because now more than ever we need to be there for those living with anxiety and depression.”

By partnering with leading non-profit organisations like Sadag, Ayyagari said that Maybelline New York’s #BraveTogether programme aims to break down the stigma around anxiety and depression, provide easily accessible support and resources, and foster a culture that lets those who are struggling, and their loved ones, know that they are not alone and that there is help.

“The specially curated #BraveTogether website and WhatsApp line will give people around the world access to an online community featuring real-world inspiration and stories from people on their own mental health journey, as well as mental health experts, tips, and resources.”

Chambers said that this mental health support is much needed.

“In a world where one in five people are estimated to be affected by anxiety and depression, women are disproportionately impacted,” she said. “Most mental health conditions are ongoing or untreated.”

In South Africa, one in three people will have a mental health issue at some point in their lifetime, and nine out of 10 people with a mental health issue don’t have access to mental health care or treatment.

“If depression is not treated, it can lead to more serious issues such as thoughts of suicide, hospitalisations and possible emergency care,” Chambers said.

Burger added that throughout her life, she has struggled with her mental health on varying levels.

“From bouts of depression to post-traumatic stress disorder and an anxiety disorder, my mental health has been something I have had to work on constantly.”

Media personality Roxy Burger is part of the #BraveTogether campaign. Supplied image.

Burger believes that she is privileged to be able to access treatments and therapy, but knows that this is not the case for everyone.

“So many people simply don’t have the access they need – and this is where Sadag comes in.”

Meanwhile, Khanyile admitted that it’s been “a really scary time since Covid started”.

“The changing regulations, the loss of loved ones, the chaos of adjusting to working from home, are all situations that have made it hard to connect or be vulnerable,” she said. “You can’t pour from an empty cup so, grab yourself a cup of your favourite drink, sit in the comfort of your own space and let them help you be ‘brave, together’!”

Mbizvo added that even with all of the information and resources “out there now about mental health”, most people are still not comfortable with really talking about the moments of struggle.

“We are still in the recovery phase of living through a two year long pandemic, we are living in a time where social media is our main form of self-validation, plus most of us are working in environments that prioritise profits over employee well-being.

“So it’s completely normal and expected for each one of us to have moments of struggle.”

Mbizvo said that mental health concerns affect everyone regardless of age, culture and income level.

“This is not related to your levels of success or the lack thereof, the only constant prerequisite is being human, and the only way to solve the problem is to speak about it.”

She admitted to struggling with her mental health in the past and said she still has moments where she feels depressed, anxious and confused.

“But because I have people I can talk to, I now feel like I have control over my mental health, instead of my mind and emotions having control over me.”

Chambers encouraged those who feel alone, down, misunderstood or too scared to talk about their mental health concerns, to speak up.

“Reach out to a trained Sadag counsellor via the #BraveTogether WhatsApp line, who will be able to provide you with help, resources and referrals.”

For free online counselling, help, support and information on mental health, contact a Sadag counsellor via the #BraveTogether WhatsApp line, 8am-5pm daily on 087 163 2030.

If you feel you are having Suicidal thoughts or that you may be experiencing a mental health crisis, you can contact Sadag’s 24-hour Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0800 567 567.

The Saturday Star