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PRESS RELEASE: ENSURING RIGHT TO EMPLOYMENT FOR PEOPLE WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY SHOULD REMAIN A PRIORITY

31 March 2017

Every year March is commemorated as Intellectual Disability Awareness Month, and this year the South African Federation for Mental Health focused on creating awareness around the right that persons with intellectual disabilities have to access employment opportunities. As the month draws to an end, SAFMH would like to call on Government, partners, mental health care users and the public to continue working to ensure that the rights of persons with intellectual disability are protected and upheld.

The right of persons with disabilities to access employment opportunities is enshrined in various pieces of national and international legislation, and it is our collective responsibility to empower and assist persons with intellectual disability to access these rights.   

SAFMH would like to encourage persons with intellectual disabilities and prospective employers to make use of the SAFMH Right to Employment video materials and other informational resources, and to look for ways in which our workplaces and economy can become more inclusive and accessible.  

The DVD and videos are divided into two sections:

Section 1 is focused on persons with mental disabilities who want to find employment. The video includes information such as practical tips on how to create a CV, how to prepare for a job interview, what reasonable accommodation is and what labour laws exist in South Africa that protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

Section 1 for employees can be accessed here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GREpziXLZoc&feature=youtu.be

Section 2 is focused on prospective employers of persons with mental disabilities. It aims to educate companies and organisations about what is meant by mental disability, what the various benefits are of employing persons with disabilities, what can be expected of companies with regards to reasonable accommodation, and what labour laws protect persons with disabilities in South Africa.

Section 2 for employers can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=819DHxwRCy0&t=6s

Thank you to all partners and stakeholders for their efforts throughout the month to raise awareness around this important topic. We hope that the hard work will continue to ensure that persons with intellectual disability are given the chance to access all the opportunities that other South Africans enjoy.

FOR INQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Marthé Viljoen

Programme Manager: Information & Awareness 

SA Federation for Mental Health

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PRESS RELEASE: WORLD BIPOLAR DAY – TELLING THE STORIES OF PEOPLE LIVING WITH BIPOLAR DISORDER  

30 March 2017 

World Bipolar Day is celebrated every year on the 30th of March, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who was posthumously diagnosed as possibly having bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is the 6th leading cause of disability in the world, with an estimated 60 million people worldwide living with the disorder, according to the World Health Organisation. Despite its prevalence, bipolar disorder is still surrounded by stigma and misinformation. The reality is however that despite the severe and often debilitating symptoms, with the correct treatment and support many people with bipolar disorder are able to live functional and healthy lives as part of their communities. In order to fight the stigma surrounding the disorder, and to try and encourage understanding and support, the South African Federation for Mental Health is encouraging persons living with bipolar disorder to share their stories.   

Sifiso Mkhasibe Life Story - Living with Bipolar Mood Disorder

"I am a survivor of Bipolar Mood Disorder type 2. I can remember when I was told that I had this mental condition, I was confused and had no idea what it was and how to manage it. It was all new to me. I remember the doctor telling me that I had to take medication for the rest of my life, and it seemed like a death sentence. I didn’t understand why I had to be on medication and even worse why I was taken away from my family to stay in a hospital, I felt like my freedom was taken away from me. I didn’t see myself as a person who was chronically ill with a mental disorder. I knew I did not belong in hospital, it wasn’t a place for me. And so my journey began.

I remember I was extremely violent and aggressive. And when I was down I was so depressed I tried to kill myself. I didn’t know what to do with this mental disorder that had crippled my life. I was young in my late 20’s, doing well in college and working part time. I was excelling at everything I touched or did. So when I was admitted to hospital, I felt like my life had just ended. I never saw myself living in a lock up ward in hospital. I was always sedated, because of my violent outbursts and my manic and depressive episodes. I had given up on life and any chance of recovering from my mental illness.

My family’s response was that I was bewitched and would never be normal again, unless I went to the traditional healer. My family took me there but I was not healed, so back to hospital I went. I was written off by my family because they didn’t understand what was happening to me or how to help me. It affected them badly, my father even suffered a heart attack from thinking too much about my illness and what went wrong in his life. He blamed himself for my illness and that resulted in the heart attack, but he recovered from it. The rest of my family members kept their distance. I think it was due to a lack of education on how to support me during this time and confusion about my disorder.

Days, weeks, months went by, until I realised enough was enough. I had to take ownership of my bipolar mood disorder. I educated myself about the symptoms I had experienced when I was diagnosed. I went through depressive symptoms which included sadness and hopelessness, with no drive to live. I also went through hypomanic symptoms that included irritability and over excitement, I was also a compulsive spender, and at some point gave away all my belongings to strangers. Once I had learned how to manage my bipolar mood disorder, life started to become clearer, I knew what I had to do and how to do it. I was no longer a victim of my disorder. I stopped defining myself as a person with bipolar mood disorder, now I just say that I had those symptoms when I was diagnosed. I am on medical treatment and I do not present those symptoms any longer.

I am now a healthy and functioning member of society, and I work and study. I live life with a purpose to empower and educate people all over the world about bipolar disorder. I love to take part in outdoor activities. I’ve joined a gym in my community and play for the local soccer team, which consists of friends with bipolar and other mental disorders. I am a highly active South African Mental Health Advocacy Movement (SAMHAM) advocacy leader in my community, helping those who are struggling with their mental condition to understand and manage it, like I have done, and to fight against stigma and discrimination in our society. I work to help others live with dignity and respect, for them to know their rights as mental health care users, and to be responsible for their own mental well-being. 

The treatment I am currently taking has worked well for me over the years. I have come to terms with having to take my medication for the rest of my life, because it brings stability to my life. I am taking Epilim and Seroquel on a daily basis, and been for many years. I have had to make some lifestyle changes in order to manage my disorder, and this has helped me to be healthy.

I am Sifiso Mkhasibe… I am not my illness. My bipolar mood disorder does not define who I am. I used to present symptoms of bipolar disorder but not anymore. I am a survivor of bipolar disorder and I live a normal life. Remember to look after your mental wellbeing." 

By telling their stories in their own words, mental health care users living with bipolar disorder can help to combat the shame and silence that often surrounds mental illness, and they can become empowered through sharing their struggles, experiences and victories with the world. SAFMH encourages anyone living with bipolar disorder to send us their story to help and encourage conversation and education around bipolar disorder. SAFMH would also like to encourage all South Africans to educate themselves about bipolar disorder, in order to create a society that treats mental health care users with dignity and respect.

FOR ENQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Marthé Viljoen

Programme Manager: Information & Awareness 

SA Federation for Mental Health

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE: HUMAN RIGHTS DAY AND WORLD DOWN SYNDROME AWARENESS DAY 2017

PROTECTING THE RIGHT OF PERSONS WITH DOWN SYNDROME AND OTHER INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES TO ACCESS EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES  

On the 21st of March South Africa celebrates Human Rights Day, and worldwide Down syndrome Awareness Day is also commemorated on the same day. This year the South African Federation for Mental Health is focusing on the right that persons with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities have to access equal employment opportunities.

There are a number of specific laws in South Africa that are relevant to the right to employment, and these include:

The South African Constitution’s Bill of Rights that specifically prohibits:

  •  inequality and unfair discrimination 

The Employment Equity Act which says that:

  •  employers must remove unfair discrimination from all their policies and practices
  •  and that there must be a diverse workforce broadly representative of our persons (including persons with disabilities)

The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act which prohibits:

  • denying a person with a disability to access services and life opportunities

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which states in Article 27 that:

  •  persons with intellectual disabilities have the right to employment and self-employment opportunities

Based on these legal frameworks, any attempt to deny a person with Down syndrome or other intellectual disability from accessing employment opportunities on an equal basis is a human rights violation.

It is time that our society does away with outdated and stigmatising thinking which believes that persons with intellectual disabilities are unable to contribute or play a meaningful role in their communities. With the right support and training there are people with Down syndrome who would be able to find employment or create opportunities for themselves.

People with Down syndrome should be empowered and assisted to share their skills, insights, and abilities, and to reach a degree of personal independence. On Human Rights Day SAFMH would like to call for all sectors of society including Government, the NGO sector and the private sector, to support persons with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities and to ensure that they are afforded the same opportunities as other members of our society and thus actively contribute towards the preservation of their human rights.

 

FOR INQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Marthé Viljoen

Programme Manager: Information & Awareness 

SA Federation for Mental Health

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE: RIGHT TO EMPLOYMENT - SAFMH LAUNCHES RIGHT TO EMPLOYMENT DVD AND VIDEO RESOURCES

16 March 2017

Every year March is commemorated as Intellectual Disability Awareness Month, and this year the South African Federation for Mental Health is focusing on creating awareness around the right that persons with intellectual disabilities have to access employment opportunities.

People with intellectual disability are often marginalised and excluded from various aspects of life due to the perception that they are unable to contribute or play a meaningful role due to their disability. However, with the correct support and training there are people with intellectual disabilities who can be empowered to enter the open labour market.

SAFMH has created an empowerment tool called the Right to Employment DVD, focusing on empowering persons with mental disabilities (including those with intellectual disabilities) to access employment opportunities. Although copies of the DVDS will be distributed to partners, SAFMH has decided to upload the educational videos to YouTube so that they can be accessed by anyone who needs to make use of them.

The DVD and videos are divided into two sections:

Section 1 is focused on persons with mental disabilities who want to find employment. The video includes information such as practical tips on how to create a CV, how to prepare for a job interview, what reasonable accommodation is and what labour laws exist in South Africa that protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

Section 1 for employees can be accessed here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GREpziXLZoc&feature=youtu.be

Section 2 is focused on prospective employers of persons with mental disabilities. It aims to educate companies and organisations about what is meant by mental disability, what the various benefits are of employing persons with disabilities, what can be expected of companies with regards to reasonable accommodation, and what labour laws protect persons with disabilities in South Africa.

Section 2 for employers can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=819DHxwRCy0&t=6s

It is our hope that tools such as the Right to Employment education resources will empower persons with intellectual disabilities to access employment opportunities, as well as help to combat the stigma and discrimination that people with intellectual disability often face.

 

FOR INQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Marthé Viljoen

Programme Manager: Information & Awareness 

SA Federation for Mental Health

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

011 781 1852

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE: SAFMH LETTER TO THE PRESIDENCY AND RESPONSE TO GAUTENG HEALTH BUDGET

The South African Federation for Mental Health has written to President Jacob Zuma asking that the 21st of March, Human Rights Day, be declared a national day of mourning for those who lost their lives in the Life Esidimeni tragedy. The mental health care users who lost their lives due to mismanagement and negligence deserve to be honoured and remembered, and it is our hope that the Presidency will show its commitment to the human rights of mental health care users by granting this request.

SAFMH has also asked the President to ensure that NGO’s and community based mental health organisations are included as part of the process of reviewing and improving mental health in South Africa. We ask to be included in this process as allies and partners in order to ensure that mental health care users receive the highest possible levels of care and treatment. The Life Esidimeni tragedy has shown the necessity of upscaling community based mental health services, and of ensuring that community based NGOs and organisations receive adequate support and resources.

In light of this, SAFMH welcomes the commitments made by the Gauteng MEC for finance Barbara Creecy in the 2017/18 financial budget. For too long mental health has been under prioritised and underfunded, and it is heartening to see that R893.8 million has been set aside over the next three years to fund the provision of effective and efficient mental health care services in Gauteng.

While the Gauteng Department of Health is busy with the relocation of the former Life Esidimeni patients to licensed facilities, it is important to remember the crucial role that these community based mental health services play. Although the Life Esidimeni tragedy Revealed that DOH played a role in creating unlicensed NGOs who did not have the capacity to care for the patients, there are many licensed NGO’s who have been delivering quality care to their communities with a minimal subsidy from the state. Without these organisations many mental health care users would not have been able to receive the care and treatment they required.

SAFMH would like to urge both the provincial and national Departments of Health to commit to working with the community based NGO’s in order to effectively achieve the aims set out in the National Mental Health Strategic Action Plan. It is our hope that the President will take into consideration our requests and recommendations, and that the NGO sector will be allowed to play a role in reshaping and improving the mental health sector in South Africa, as well as the lives of South African mental health care users.

The value of Community Based Services rendered by licensed NGO’s, from a Mental Health Care Users Perspective

“Community services for me as a person with Bipolar Mood Disorder Type 2 (BMD2), have contributed a great deal to my process of recovery. These services have educated me about my mental disability, especially when I had to take ownership of my condition. For example, there were certain lifestyle changes which I had to make, and my mental health had to be my main priority.

If it wasn’t for these community services, I would not have known about my rights as a person with a psychosocial disability, and that I should be treated with dignity and respect in my community. I am grateful for these community services, they have added value to my life. Being slowly integrated into society after learning of my mental illness was not easy. I was exposed to different services whereby I was taught about social skills and how to manage my mental health, what my triggers are and where to seek help if I am unsure of what the side effects of medication are.

I believe these services should be accessible to all persons with mental disabilities. These community services are very important to me, because they have not only assisted with therapy but they have also empowered me with tools to live a happy and productive life. I am grateful for these services, because if it wasn’t for them I would be living on the street, with no idea of how to heal and recover from my mental condition. People with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities need not suffer in silence, there are community services available to them, with resources to help them function in society.”

- Sifiso Mkhasibe

 

FOR ENQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Marthé Viljoen

Programme Manager: Information & Awareness 

SA Federation for Mental Health

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

PRESS RELEASE: MARCH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY AWARENESS MONTH 2017

PERSONS WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY HAVE A RIGHT TO EMPLOYMENT

Every year March is commemorated as Intellectual Disability Awareness Month, and this year the South African Federation for Mental Health will be creating awareness around the right that persons with intellectual disabilities have to employment.

In South Africa only 1.2% of the workforce are people with disabilities, according to the 16th Commission for Employment Equity Annual Report, in comparison with employment equity target for employment of persons with disability which is 2%. One group who experience extreme exclusion from the open labour market are adults with intellectual disability. People with intellectual disability are marginalised and excluded from various aspects of life due to the perception that they are unable to contribute or play a meaningful role due to their disability. Adults with intellectual disability have to contend with being treated like children their entire lives, regardless of their legal age. This type of treatment is extremely disempowering, and helps to perpetuate the stigma that persons with intellectual disability are not capable of contributing to society or of living full and meaningful lives.

Preventing a person with intellectual disability from entering the workplace is a violation of their basic human rights; it prevents them from achieving a degree of personal independence, as well as preventing them from sharing their skills, insights, and abilities with their communities. With the correct support and training persons with intellectual disabilities can be empowered to enter the open labour market. Despite various pieces of both national and international legislation ensuring the right of people with intellectual disabilities to employment, such as the Bill of Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, persons with intellectual disability in South Africa remain unemployed.

Unemployment amongst people with intellectual disabilities can be attributed to a number of factors:

•              Low skills levels due to inadequate education

•              Discriminatory attitudes and practices by employers

•              Lack of enabling mechanisms to promote employment opportunities

•              Inaccessible public transport

•              Inaccessible and unsupportive work environments

•              Inadequate and inaccessible provision for vocational rehabilitation and training

•              Generally high levels of unemployment

•              Inadequate access to information

•              Ignorance in society.

Despite these challenges the reality is that persons with intellectual disabilities can successfully perform a wide range of jobs, and can be dependable workers.  They can also add a variety of skills and values to the workplace if they are given the opportunity to do so. 

 

The story of Jason Pareira

“I am very proud of myself and being employed is such a great feeling…” 

Jason Pereira started at Training Workshop Unlimited, a protective workshop run by Cape Mental Health, in 2000 as a trainee in the Work Skills area. In 2005 Jason was selected to be a part of the Siyanceda project which was a 24 month set skills development project. Through this opportunity, Jason was equipped with various skills including hygiene and cleaning skills, proper use of indoor and outdoor cleaning equipment and materials, good workplace behaviour; as well as skills such as budgeting and socialisation. Hereafter, Jason found himself setting goals for his future as he aspired to be an independent, working member of society.

In 2008, Jason applied for a position as a cleaner at the Foundation for Community Work (FCW). With his skill set established and Job Coach support to prepare himself for the interview process, Jason went into the interview with confidence. In retrospect Jason recalls that if it was not for the training he would not have been ready for the interview. Jason has now been an employee of FCW for 8 years and after 8 years, he still arrives at work one hour early every single day with more enthusiasm and motivation than an employee displays on their first day at a new job. ”I like to be early because it gives me a chance to prepare myself, get settled and have a cup of coffee before I start my day.”

“I am very proud of myself and being employed is such a great feeling. I am independent, I can travel to work on public transport, I am part of FCW staff, I contribute to the men’s group at my church and most importantly I can manage my own money, I like nice things but I put my needs ahead of my wants”.

-Jason Pareira

 

During Intellectual Disability Awareness Month, the South African Federation for Mental Health calls on government and the private sector to prioritise job creation for persons with intellectual disability, and to create an open labour market that is inclusive and accessible to all sectors of society. It is essential that persons with intellectual disability are afforded the same opportunities to develop skills and to create better lives for themselves and their families that all other South African citizens enjoy. SAFMH calls on your support for the empowerment of persons with intellectual disabilities to enter the open labour market and secure employment.  

 

FOR INQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Marthé Viljoen

Programme Manager: Information & Awareness 

SA Federation for Mental Health

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.