The Counselling Hub delivers affordable counselling services in an effort to address the lack of affordable community-level mental health services.
South Africa, a country in dire need of such services, has for a long time suffered from a desperate lack of them. The need for accessible and affordable mental health services is extensive as South African communities contend with high levels of inequality, high rates of unemployment and poverty; crime and violence; domestic abuse and addiction. All of these factors increase the prevalence of common mental health illnesses and disorders.
The mental health crisis in South Africa
A report conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that the “treatment gap” in South Africa – the proportion of people with mental illness who don’t get treatment – stands at around 75%. That’s three-quarters of South Africans reporting mental illness who are unable to access the treatment they need, whether it be for depression, anxiety, or even more serious conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Furthermore, according to Cassey Chambers, operations director at SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group), those stats may not even reflect the true severity of the situation, as they don’t take into account the “people don’t know where to go to get help, or are too scared to seek it”.
The stigma attached to mental illness has certainly contributed to the state of mental health in South Africa, as have cultural issues (there’s not even a word for ‘depression’ in Zulu); but ultimately, economic factors play the most significant role, as they do in most things. A report by the World Bank named South Africa as the most unequal country in the world, and a large proportion of people suffering from mental health simply cannot afford the treatment they need.
The costs of accessing care in the private sector can range from R350 to R1200 for a single counselling session, so the majority of people who seek treatment are dependent on the public sector, which is understaffed and underfunded, with an estimated 2.75 psychologists for every 100 000 people.
South Africa’ mental health crisis goes hand-in-hand with poverty as a significant barrier to economic and social progress. Poverty and mental illness form a vicious cycle, perpetually feeding each other as the conditions of underprivileged communities exacerbate mental health issues while preventing those afflicted from seeking treatment, keeping them trapped not only physically but psychologically in a state of hopelessness.
The Counselling Hub: Delivering affordable counselling services to underprivileged communities
Fortunately, volunteer and non-profit organisations have stepped up to try and fill the void created by lack of government investment. One such example is The Counselling Hub, which was launched in Woodstock in early 2019. Its mission is to deliver low-cost mental health services to poverty-stricken areas and communities that need it most.
The Counselling Hub is an initiative of the SACAP Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing accessible and affordable mental health services, and the KK Educational Fund (KKEF). Kentse Radebe, the executive director of the SACAP Foundation, describes The Counselling Hub as “a safe community space where people who need access to mental health services can receive quality and affordable care”.
At R50 for a one-on-one counselling session, the low cost is designed to cover the running costs of the facility, and make it possible for people of limited financial means to receive care and attention. This is a beacon of hope to people in underprivileged communities, particularly women and children, who suffer the brunt of trauma from the crime, abuse and violence that such conditions breed.
Aside from providing free workshops and low-cost one-on-one treatment, The Counselling Hub also works to raise awareness of mental health issues. As Kentse Radebe says, such efforts are pivotal to fighting the stigma and misinformation attached to mental health illnesses, which “creates an unnecessary and harmful barrier to access for individuals who need to get help”.
The front line of the fight
The Counselling Hub is a significant step in the right direction, but South Africa’s mental health services remain in need of manpower. Addressing the mental health crisis is essential if the country is to escape the legacy of its past.
If you wish to play a role, you can learn more about becoming a registered counsellor at SACAP. Counselling courses are available full-time, part-time and online; and will provide you with the necessary qualifications to register with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). For more information, enquire now.