Thursday, 27 August 2020 14:21

Wellbeing for women: Help is a just a phone call away

From thousands of people caught in a storm of anxiety and depression, there’s been someone there to listen and give advice. For the South African Anxiety and Depression Group, the last six months has changed everything – and the NGO has risen to the challenge.

 “We had three days’ notice before total lockdown,” says Cassey Chambers, who heads operations. “Our call centre is based in Rivonia in Johannesburg and we usually had three counsellors on shift. With the help of our service provider, we managed to switch to working from home through a switchboard app. Our counsellors could continue to work from home.”

The calls – mostly from women – kept coming in. “Usually we have around 600 calls a day, but as the crisis gripped this has risen to around 1 400 with 44 000 in April alone.

“When the first deaths started a lot of people were triggered. They were stressed, anxious, panicked. Women were worried for their children, their husbands and their elderly parents. Really struggling.”

Cassey says the calls are heartbreaking. “A mom who had a secure job was now standing in a queue for a food parcel to feed her children. The mental health impact is immense.”

SADAG has become a resource centre for services of all kinds, as more people go online for information and support.

Supporting the call centre staff, who come from all walks of life and range in age from psychology students in their 20s to counsellors in their 80s, is important too.

“The magic thing is we’ve been able to use technology. We have a WhatsApp support group for every shift and online support sessions – so we’ve been able to share and debrief through really stressful situations together.“

The counsellors are also dealing with the effects of the pandemic and the extra demands that all women are facing. Cassey has continued to work throughout the crisis, at home with a three-year-old and a seven-year-old.

As part of our support for women and wellbeing, African Extracts is donating R25 000 to SADAG. We’ve also sent skin-care products to each of the SADAG counsellors  and staff members, as a small thank you for the amazing work they have done and continue to do for the women of South Africa.

“We’re so grateful for the help. So many companies are facing difficulties and we rely on donations. This will go towards our telephone bill and means that we can help hundreds more people,” says Cassey.

Contact the SADAG call centre on 011 234 4837 every day from 08:00 to 20:00n or their 24hr helpline on 0800 456 789. For suicidal emergencies call 0800 567 567.

Visit their website to find lots of resources, including student help lines, or follow them on Facebook.


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