The Counselling Hub has launched in Woodstock, Cape Town offering low cost mental health services in order to increase access for people living and working in the surrounds. With one-on-one sessions at only R50, and free workshops, people with low incomes can now seek the professional support they need to navigate their life challenges. South Africa has high, and rising, rates of mental health challenges set against the backdrop of a scarce mental health services infrastructure.
There’s a significant mental health equity gap, with only a small portion of those in distress able to afford the available care, which is concentrated in the private sector. In the public sector there are approximately on 2.75 psychologists for every 100 000 people. Yet, the need for quality mental health services is widespread and intense in low-income communities where high rates of poverty and unemployment; crime and violence; domestic abuse and addiction take an immense toll on people’s mental wellbeing. At the community public health level there is a dire lack of mental health services, and experts have described mental healthcare as the ‘orphan’ when it comes to Government’s provision of services. The costs of accessing care in the private sector can range from R350 to R1200 for a single counselling session, which is prohibitive for the majority of South Africans who cannot afford medical insurance.
The Counselling Hub is an initiative of the SACAP Foundation, a non-profit organisation working towards providing accessible affordable mental health services, and the KK Educational Fund (KKEF). Kentse Radebe, the Executive Director of the SACAP Foundation says, “We have created a safe community space where people who need access to mental health services can receive quality and affordable care. More than that, the Counselling Hub also aims to create awareness about mental health, as well as the benefits of accessing mental health resources. Unfortunately, there is still fear, stigma and misinformation attached to mental health illnesses, and this creates an unnecessary and harmful barrier to access for individuals who need to get help. The Counselling Hub is playing a vital role in the Woodstock and surrounding communities to create awareness of the importance of reducing stigma and to promote responsibility for one’s emotional and mental well-being.”
Co-founder of The Counselling Hub and spokesperson for KKEF, Romi Kaplan explains that both partners in the project share a vision of a country with quality, affordable and well-developed mental health services for all South Africans. “South Africans face many harsh realities. My experience in counselling has allowed me to see the benefit that can be gained from a non-judgmental, listening ear,” she says. “Basic tools too can go a long way in assisting clients in coping with daily challenges when experiencing a trauma or difficult situation. We also aim to create a continuity of services through appropriate referrals and connection to other communities, which is why our service is multi-faith. We believe that a friendly meeting point in Cape Town will benefit both practitioners and clients, and that is why we have called the space a Hub. In broadening access to these services we aim on contributing to the functional wellbeing of our society as a whole.”
The SACAP Foundation was founded as a non-profit entity by the South African College of Applied Psychology. “With only one in four South Africans able to access the mental health services they need, the Counselling Hub intends to boost mental health equity,” says Lance Katz, CEO of SACAP and Chairman of the SACAP Foundation. “This is aligned with SACAP’s mission of providing quality education for future counsellors, coaches and psychologists with the aim of strengthening the country’s mental health resources. For SACAP, the Counselling Hub also provides an opportunity for their students to fulfil the vital work-integrated learning component of their studies where, with the support of their supervisors, they gain invaluable experience of meeting the real-life mental health needs in South African communities.”
Treatable mental disorders such anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and substance addiction are very common. Left untreated this creates an enormous economic and social burden on the country. The Counselling Hub aims to bridge the mental health equity gap so that we can become a nation of capable and functional individuals able to contribute positively to our families and communities.
Centrally located at 52/54 Francis Street in Woodstock, the Counselling Hub is easily accessible to those living and working in the City Bowl, Zonnebloem, District Six, Salt River, Observatory and the Atlantic Seaboard. Those experiencing crises such as trauma, anxiety, depression and grief can access short-term interventions including one-on-one counselling for up to six sessions, as well as group workshops covering a range of mental health topics.
The Counselling Hub primarily relies on student and professional volunteers to deliver its core services. Student volunteers are mainly drawn from SACAP and are under professional supervision and support. A nominal fee of just R50 is charged for an individual counselling session, and six sessions are offered. Attendance of group workshops is free.