GBV-F Mental Health Support - Exploring Free Services - SACAP
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Exploring Free Mental Health Support Services during 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence & Femicide

Dec 10, 2023 | By Mpho Ashley Motene
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In commemoration of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence worldwide, and as experienced by womxn and children, you may see people wearing purple, orange or black ribbons alongside many advocacy protests raising awareness about GBV and Femicide (GBV-F) as a psychosocial pandemic. Let’s explore GBV-F Mental Health Support Services in South Africa.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), women tend to either be undertreated or overtreated, especially women who are BIPOC, which also includes poor access to quality mental health support and care through psychiatry, counselling and psychotherapy. WHO further state that, “One in three women globally, around 736 million, have been subjected to physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes, according to new analysis by the World Health Organization (WHO). One in four women aged between 15 and 24 years will have already experienced violence by an intimate partner by the time they reach their mid-twenties”. 

Surviving GBV-F

Personally, as a survivor of almost all forms of GBV and femicide in my family and in the village, township and metropolitan city of Johannesburg that I have called home, as well as being as psychologist by professional training, practice and activism, I have come to observe the many stigmas that are associated with being a survivor of GBV. One of those stigmas is this judgmental assumption that womxn or children are to blame for putting themselves in situations or positions that resulted in them being abused. This is not true considering that GBV-F can be seen as a violation of human rights and is a majorly destructive, hurtful form of gaslighting and victim bashing that takes away from the mental health of GBV survivors. At the heart of the stigma, seems to be an underestimation of how societally widespread GBV and femicide truly is in South Africa and worldwide.

The Reality of GBV-F

Another reality to grapple with during this year’s 16 days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence is that many womxn and children do not report the ways in which their human rights have been violated through GBV-F due to fear of further victimization, abuse through societal judgment, some desensitized police and justice system case workers as well as inaccessible mental health support services.

That being said, it is not often that you hear enough men and friendship groups of boys in our population also considering themselves as survivors of GBV considering that it is a societal social ill and wicked problem that affects every single one of us directly or indirectly. GBV-F is not a reality that woman alone, or any child, should have to face on their own as they navigate through life work and their future; not when so many survivors like myself have a true story to tell and a desire to be believed and supported.

Ashley shared more of her experience here.

GBV-F and Mental Health Support

Whilst we should not be defined by our past traumatic experiences, however we can’t deny that trauma negatively impacts our mental health as human beings. Sadly, in our African context access to mental health professionals is low which makes it important provide free mental health resources and services in all communities so that every GBV survivor be it a women, child or family can have a psychologically safe space that allows for feeling heard, seen and believed. Psychiatrist, Prof Gabor Mate has insightfully described trauma as follows, “The essence of trauma is disconnection…so the real question is: How did we get separated and how do we reconnect?”. Connection as part of the healing journey may be reconnecting with ourselves, with others, the earth, with our emotions, thoughts and bodily experiences as well as spiritually within our souls.

Brene Brown has shared “Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it’s about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question.” With the right mental health support, heal we can and live we must, as that is the human right of all women, children and communities affected by GBV and femicide.  

Free Mental Health Support Services in South Africa

Below is a list of free mental health support services as well as clarity of how to access mental health support through the public health care and paid private health care systems in South Africa

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