Charlene will be conducting “Empowerment Sessions” in Kimberley (10 November); Douglas (13 November); Prieska (18 November) and Upington (23 November). The training sessions will mainly be focused on educating persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities on the basic understanding of mental disability and human rights. Mental health care workers and family members will also be given the opportunity to attend the sessions. At the same time, from the group, individuals will be identified to be groomed into mental health advocacy leaders for their district and province. These leaders will play a crucial role in managing the advocacy groups that will be established and in empowering others with mental disabilities.
SAMHAM was established by SAFMH in 2007 in recognition of the importance of giving persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities a voice, and further recognising that they are ultimately the experts in mental health and should thus always be key partners among all stakeholders within the mental health sector. Outside of the mental health field and within communities, persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities must be empowered to participate at all levels of their lives. Prevalence rates of stigma attached to these disabilities are very high, which creates barriers in accessing and enjoying all rights enshrined in the South African Constitution's Bill of Rights and other relevant policies and legislation such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Persons affected by these “invisible” disabilities however play a crucial role in breaking down these barriers through being empowered and actively engaging with the public and private sectors, and expressing their concerns, needs, challenges and working together to overcome these. Because of their personal experiences, these individuals are also a key source of awareness on mental health, with direct access to and in-depth knowledge about specific communities across South Africa.