Celebrating 15 years of mental health and advocacy in 2010, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is the country’s largest and most recognised mental health initiative. As the nation’s leading advocacy and educational voice on mental health, SADAG has been tirelessly committed to improving the mental health and well-being of thousands of South Africans. Mental illness, and the stigma surrounding it, is a crucial issue in South Africa, and as such SADAG is at the forefront of patient advocacy, education and destigmatisation of mental illness in the country. Its expertise lies in assisting patients and callers throughout South Africa with mental health queries.

SADAG is a Non-Profit Organisation, a Registered Section 21 Company with tax exemption that has on its board a powerful team of Patients, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, and General Practitioners. SADAG was established fifteen years ago to serve as a support network for the thousands of South Africans who live with mental health problems; currently, it is estimated that 1 in 5 people will or do suffer from a mental illness. SADAG now runs a 16-line counselling and referral call centre, and is the voice of patient advocacy, working in urban, peri-urban, and rural communities across South Africa.

This commitment has been recognised nationally and internationally with numerous prestigious awards and grants. Noteworthy amongst these accolades was a substantial grant from the World Bank Development Marketplace in 2003. This grant allowed SADAG to considerably expand their rural development programme, and in so doing, bring hope to thousands of rural South Africans affected by mental health problems.

SADAG’s goals are achieved through:  

  • A network of over 180 Support Groups throughout South Africa, including outreach groups in remote rural areas where the community members lack access to resources and  have no funds for treatment
  • A professional counselling staff headquartered in Sandton, Gauteng, who operate the counselling lines from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.
  • Educational materials, including free multilingual brochures on mental health issues including depression, bipolar, PTSD, OCD, anxiety, sleep disorders, schizophrenia, teen suicide and substance abuse.
  • A monthly newsletter is sent out to over 6 000 callers and we have videos, audios and books available.
  • A referral service to mental health professionals and free medical treatment where available.
  • A comprehensive and informative website that can be accessed at www.sadag.co.za with over 450 000 hits per month.
  • SADAG offers workshops and training programmes countrywide and in various languages to a divergent group including Commercial and large Corporates, Traditional Healers, Home-Based Care Workers, Hospitals and Clinics, Correctional Facilities, Schools, Universities, Churches, and Youth Groups. Topics include depression, anxiety, dealing with stress, PTSD, suicide prevention and mental health stigma.
  • SADAG works in numerous schools, with learners, parents and educators. Our programme “Suicide Shouldn’t be a Secret” is aimed at reducing SA’s high rate of teen suicide. 9.5 % of all teen deaths are due to suicide. SADAG teaches youths that Depression is treatable and Suicide is preventable.
  • SADAG also does extensive work in the corporate sector with EAP training, corporate talks, and employee wellness days.
  • Powerful media campaigns designed to destigmatise mental illness and promote mental health are at the forefront of SADAG’s patient advocacy work. In order to achieve this, SADAG runs TV and radio adverts, sends out weekly press releases to print, radio and electronic media, as well as running specific campaigns to raise awareness of Bipolar Disorder, Teen Suicide, Men and Depression and Panic Disorder. SADAG has produced over a dozen radio adverts in various languages and 8 TV adverts. In certain months, SADAG’s media exposure reaches just under R5 million.
Speaking Books, SADAG’s innovation to help low-literacy rural communities understand vital healthcare messages such as Mental Health, HIV and Aids, TB, Malaria, Safe Sex, Teen Suicide and Clinical Trials, have won SADAG numerous local and international awards due to their strategic communication messages and simplicity of use.

SADAG is recognised for its work in rural communities on the identification of depression in HIV and Aids patients, and the training of Home-based Care Workers and Caregivers in how to recognise the symptoms and where to access treatment. SADAG’s work has been endorsed by the World Bank, the Department of Health, the Department of Education, Johns Hopkins, the US Embassy, De Beers, World Federation for Mental Health, the World Health Organisation, EU, Department of Social Development and the Global Fund.

People often don’t realise that SADAG has only four permanent staff members - all the rest are volunteers. Due to the volume of media coverage we get, people assume we are a very large organisation with deep pockets. The reality is that we literally go from month to month finding money for our services.  

SADAG - Making Mental Health Matter