20 Years of SADAG – Interview with Zane Wilson

How long have you been at the head of SADAG?

I started SADAG in 1994, at the encouragement of Prof Michael Berk, who was my psychiatrist. I had had massive Panic attacks for ten years without the right treatment, but when I got the treatment, (medication from the psychiatrist,) I became well within four weeks. It just goes to show what the right treatment can do for patients.
SADAG held its first meeting at Sandton Library on a Thursday morning and SADAG over filled the Sandton Library, at 11am.
I have been the founder from the beginning. Have a fabulous, small, active board who make quick decisions. Some have been with me for 18 years. Have a strong committed team of six staff.

What have been the biggest achievements for the organisation over the last 20 years?

  • SADAG fought to get Bipolar registered as a PMB
  • SADAG opened the first ever Counselling Container in Diepsloot, with over 200,000 people and two counsellors, subsequently SADAG has started 3 support groups, working in the clinics (2), have three schools SADAG are wo, king on in Suicide prevention, Bullying, Exam Stress, Substance Abuse, and work with the police station, churches, other stakeholders and the big local Diepsloot mall.
  • SADAG has trained just under a million children, teens, on Teen Suicide prevention and Depression. Class by Class and school by school. SADAG also train the teachers. All nine provinces and send 12 trainers for the day to each school. Leave three pieces of info for the youth, what symptoms to look out for; what are their local resources, what are our emergency numbers and contacts where SADAG can help them.

What is SADAG’s biggest focus at this current moment?

SADAG would like to further develop our partnerships with the Department of Health, and education, instead of doing a huge volume of work on their behalf with no recognition or support. SADAG would like to establish an ombudsman on Mental Health with toll free lines, to investigate drugs not being available, as they currently are not at Helen Joseph or Tara, or Eastern Cape

How would you change current practise to best serve the greater country in regards to mental health?

  • Put back psychiatric nurses in rural clinics, where they previously were. Give them more prescription writing permission in the more rural areas.
  • Put more beds in place for mental health particularly for children and youth.
  • Put all the interns and community psychologists in place in rural hospitals and clinics, not in the Johansseburg, Cape Town and Durban, etc.
  • Put more pilot counselling containers in place in rural large townships. They are economical, effective and build wonderful community relationships.

What does the future hold for the organisation and what do you hope achieve?

The organisation will continue to develop more support groups, currently SADAG has 200 groups, and they put in place community skills and access to better treatment is very important. SADAG are aiming for 300 in the next 3 years. SADAG need more brochures in various languages and funding for speaking books on Bipolar and Schizophrenia for rural communities, very hard topic to understand. These books can be distributed, played, and replayed by patients, family members, and community groups.