South Africa Exchange and Training

Part of WFSAD's Africa Training and Exchange in March 2002 included a visit to South Africa. To coincide with this visit, the Schizophrenia Foundation of South Africa organized a conference entitled "Promoting Family Support Structures in Mental Health in South Africa Today." One hundred and twenty delegates were registered, but another 100 turned up, causing some excitement. Attendance was largely professional, but with a sizable group of family care givers and some consumers.

This showed just how important this topic was for South African mental health professionals and families alike. WFSAD delegates Jim Crowe and Margaret Leggatt were keynote speakers. It became obvious that working with families and the benefits of including them was not a well-known concept for this audience. Jim and Margaret urged the audience to take account of families, and emphasized the benefits to be gained from family participation. They stressed the needs of families and the value of considering their experiences. Supporting and aiding the formation of family self-help groups was also discussed. Delegates seemed eager to learn.

Visits were made to a mental hospital and radio interviews were given. In each case, WFSAD promoted the message of the need for clinicians to work much more closely with family carers to enhance outcome.

Margaret and Jim had discussions with the family group in Johannesburg and then continued on to Cape Town and Durban, where they presented further lectures and seminars to nurses and other mental health professionals. They met with members of Cape Support for Mental Health, a family organization that focuses on service provision as well as advocacy. Discussions took place on developing family support throughout South Africa and the Cape Support personnel were very enthusiastic. However, success will depend on a far greater number of committed families and family groups from all over the country. "Variations in economy and culture and large distances between villages will also make this a challenging task," Jim noted in his report to the WFSAD Board of Directors.