‘Crazy walkers’ raise awareness about depression

On Monday, a group of unusual walkers moved through Carletonville to raise awareness about the mental health issues from which many people suffer in silence. The group is part of the ‘Crazy for Walking’ initiative and is walking to raise awareness about mental health issues, especially depression. They plan to cover a distance of 1 500 kilometres before reaching Cape Town on International World Health Day on 10 October. The group is supported by various private hospitals that offer psychiatric services. According to the initiator of the action, Mrs Hannetjie Buitendag (59), she undertook it to make people with depression, in particular, realise that there is hope and help for them. Buitendag, the administrative manager of Vista Clinic, a private psychiatric hospital in Centurion, said she often sees patients when they come into the facility for treatment. ‘I see all their hurt and emptiness. They do
not even register what is going on around them. I want people to know that you can get help before you reach
this level of depression,’ she says. As part of raising awareness, the walkers carried banners on which the essential phrases that people have to do to ensure their own mental health are printed. Buitendag explained that actively living out these words, ‘Help others’, ‘Exercise’, ‘Learn’, ‘Play’ and ‘Spritual/Social growth’, is essential for people who want to look after their own mental health. A group of experts also travels with the group to give talks in the town that they pass. A pastoral counsellor, Dr Colin Finucane, a psychiatrist, Dr Martha Mabeba and Mr Deon Labuschagne, a disabled man who also suffers from a mood disorder, gave talks throughout town as part of the initiative. The walkers and their support team slept over at Selati Guest House on Monday night and left for Potchefstroom the next morning. Readers can also learn more about the initiative at www.crazyforwalking.

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