A recent study indicates that South Africans suffer higher rates of likely depression and anxiety than other nations. Nonetheless, only a quarter of affected individuals seek treatment.

Mental health challenges are widespread in South Africa, influenced by various elements such as adverse childhood experiences, socio-economic status, geographic location, and education levels. It is also believed that individuals in more impoverished rural areas are more susceptible to experiencing mental illness. Underprivileged individuals are also less likely to seek mental health support. However, one organisation aims to end this trend. Good Hope Psychological Services (GHPS) offers mental health care to those who cannot always afford mainstream mental health care.

GHPS provides expert psychological assistance to over 1 000 people annually from disadvantaged areas, fostering hope and resilience within these communities.

“The aim of GHPS has always been to address the lack of psychological services in impoverished communities. The communities we work with face numerous emotional and psychological challenges, and there is a significant gap in available services,” Carien de Klerk, a counselling psychologist and director at GHPS, said.

GHPS, a non-profit organisation, collaborates with the Department of Health to provide healthcare services beyond the physical.

“Collaborating with the Department of Health, we realised that patients in disadvantaged areas only receive medical treatment for physical wounds, while emotional trauma goes unaddressed. Talk therapy is a crucial component that has been missing,” Carien mentioned.

The stigma surrounding mental health

Carien highlights the immense need for psychological services in the communities they serve, which often leads to a waiting list. However, mental health stigma still prevents some clients from attending their appointments.

“Addressing the stigma surrounding mental health requires ongoing individual, community, and societal efforts. By promoting understanding, empathy, and acceptance, we can create a supportive environment for individuals with mental health conditions, encouraging them to seek help without fear or shame,” Carien emphasised.

Working with non-profit organisations

GHPS has partnered with Valcare to provide psychological services to staff and beneficiaries within the Valcare non-profit network.

“As a non-profit organisation, we are well-positioned to offer psychological services to other non-profits, as we have firsthand knowledge of working in this space,” Carien said.

“The risk of burnout is high among staff working in non-profit organisations due to the secondary trauma we experience. Non-profit employees and volunteers genuinely desire to make a difference, sometimes giving more than we should. That’s why we must take care of our mental health to continue contributing effectively,” Carien concluded.