It is estimated that ONLY one in four South Africans suffering from a mental illness or disorder will receive some form of care. This means that the majority of people who require access to mental health care services will not get the help they need.

In South Africa, some of the barriers to access mental health services include the stigma associated with asking for help, long waiting times at local clinics and the high cost of private support.

As a low-cost service, The Counselling Hub, located in Woodstock, positions itself as an affordable choice for individuals and families looking to access basic mental health care services. It is a project of the SACAP Foundation in partnership with the Kaplan Kushlik Educational Trust.

Apart from providing affordable and accessible services, the organisation advocates for community-level mental health care and creates awareness about mental health through psycho-social programmes and initiatives.

 COVID-19

As Covid-19 shut down many options for access to their services,  The Counselling Hub was determined not to separate clients from their counsellors at such a stressful time.

…So they changed their model. From the very first week of lock-down, they pivoted to a tele-counselling service. They devised a system whereby counsellors would be able to virtually counsel  and provided with airtime and data.

“Immediately, we engaged an expert in tele-counselling to facilitate a training session via Zoom so that we could all master the basics of this new way of delivering services. Our model previously was to offer professional services at the affordable rate of R50 per session, but we needed to innovate here too as clients lost their sources of income. In some cases, the only way to ensure continuity of treatment has been for our counsellors to make the calls. We have thus transformed to being a donation-based service.”

(Romi Kaplan, Co-ounder)

“Covid-19 has ramped up fear, uncertainty, depression, sadness and anxiety. As infections and deaths continue to rise, grief is going to become a challenge for many more people. As economic recession deepens and job losses increase, mental health issues are going to be paramount. We must find the innovative ways, not just to continue, but to amplify support and care.”

(Shifra Jacobson Counselling Hub co-ordinator)

Additionally, the lockdown has brought many mental health issues in the family context to light with parents becoming aware of their teens’ eating disorders and adults reckoning for the first time with their substance issues or their lack of resilience when it comes to financial uncertainty.

Covid-19  has paved a way to broaden access to mental healthcare and make sure that the functional wellbeing South African society is boosted.

Says Lance Katz from the SACAP Foundation, “The crisis intensifies the harsh realities that most South Africans living in vulnerable communities experience. Never underestimate the benefits of a non-judgmental, listening ear.

As of the start of  June, The Counselling Hub had run over 650 hours of virtual counselling with 30 volunteer counsellors reaching 90 clients each week. Donations support airtime and data costs that are gifted to their clients.