Step up and take a walk for mental health in Durban

THE KZN branch of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is planning a mass walk along the beachfront next month to help raise awareness of mental health issues, as well as help people to get moving and find out more about mental illness and well-being.

October 10 is World Mental Health Day, which is why the KZN Mental Health Advocacy Group together with SADAG have planned a morning of healthy walking and information sharing on Durban’s beachfront on Saturday, 7 October.  

The event, which is open to the public, is taking place at the Amphitheatre on the beachfront with the walk itself starting at 9am, heading to Ushaka Marine World and back.

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Various organisations that are involved in mental health and related services such as substance rehabilitation will also be present to share information and interact with the public.

The organisers of the walk believe that mental well-being is fundamental to the quality of life and productivity of individuals, families, communities and nations, enabling people to experience life as meaningful and to be creative and active citizens.

Mental health activities enhance peoples’ well-being and functioning by focusing on their strengths and resources, reinforcing resilience, reducing risks and enhancing external protective factors.

Mental illness causes a huge burden on individuals, families and the country as a whole.

It is a major contributor to absenteeism and lost productivity in the workplace, and it is expected that by 2020, clinical depression will be the leading cause of disability worldwide.

Mental illness often co-exists with, contributes to causation and complicates the outcome of many common physical disorders such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disease and HIV.

Furthermore, substance use disorders and mental illness often co-occur, making treatment of both conditions more difficult.

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The Mental Health Advocacy group together with SADAG aims to change the major structural and attitudinal barriers to achieving positive mental health outcomes by raising awareness, empowering people, organising psychoeducational programmes to reduce stigma and increase mental health, and influence policy.

Specialist psychiatrist Dr Suvira Ramlall, and clinical psychologist Suntosh Pillay, directors of KZN SADAG and the co-founders of the 5-year old KZN Mental Health Advocacy Group, advocate for preventing mental illness by improving communities’ mental health literacy and by making simple changes in our everyday lives to improve our mental health. Central to this is getting active.

Physical activity like walking brings both physical and mental health benefits. There have been hundreds of medical studies to back up the opinion that regular exercise is good for your health, and walking itself has been found to reduce the risk of dying by 32 per cent.

Not only is this the result of the physical benefits of, for example, improved cardiac risk factors, but walking also reduces mental stress and can help with a range of disorders.

Health benefits of exercise include general stress relief, help you sleep better, boosts your mood, improves your emotional resilience and positively impacts on anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD, and dementia.

Walking does not require any special skills or expenses so is one of the easiest ways to step up for mental health, especially when done in a beautiful, natural setting like the Durban beachfront and boosted by the health benefits of happy sunlight.

“By joining the walk on 7 October you will not only be walking for your own mental health but ‘walking the talk’ for greater awareness and investment in mental health and advocating for better mental health services,” said a spokesman for SADAG KZN.

The slogan for the walk is: “No health without mental health!”  For more info about this event Contact [email protected].

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  AUTHOR
Evelyn Morris
Journalist and Photographer

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