Carefree day for mental health carers

Caregivers of those with mental illnesses spent a day off at Westridge Gardens with Cape Mental Health staff.

It’s not unusual for caregivers to spend so much time looking after others that they forget to look after themselves, but a day of fun and games in Westridge Gardens on Friday sought to change that.

About 25 Mitchell’s Plain carers of mentally ill people joined in the fun, carrying an orange between their knees while walking, throwing socks on a line and using their mouths to pass cards that had little heaps of flour on them.

It was all part of an annual event held by Cape Mental Health to let caregivers relax and unwind. The last such event was held in 2019 before the pandemic, according to Mastura Salasa-Schaffers, a field social worker from the organisation’s Mitchell’s Plain branch, which, together with staff from the Bellville branch, organised the event.

“It is an event whereby we acknowledge and appreciate all of the work the caregivers have been doing in taking care of their family members with a lived experience of disability, our clients,” she said. “We aim to celebrate their strength, determination and dedication in caring for their family members.”

The non-profit organisation is the oldest mental health organisation in South Africa and a founding member of the World Federation for Mental Health, formed in London in 1948.

Denise Hendricks, 70, of Portland, who looks after her adult son to ensure he takes his medication said the day off was fun.

“If I don’t look after myself then I cannot look after the rest of the family. A healthy family needs a healthy wife and mother. Therefore I make it my first priority, and I believe in taking care of myself,” she said.

Ms Salasa-Schaffers said mental illnesses included mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder; anxiety disorders; personality disorders; and psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.

For any mental health queries call 021 447 9040.

Denise Hendricks, 70, from Portland, carries an orange between her legs.
Elizabeth Caesar, from Beacon Valley, and Jacky Matthews, from Lentegeur pass flour on cards with their mouths.
Deslynn Nel, a Cape Mental Health social worker, tries to snag a sock on a line.