Rhodes University gives trauma support to the community

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COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: Rhodes University's Psychology department staff and community stakeholders during the trauma support roadshow.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: Rhodes University's Psychology department staff and community stakeholders during the trauma support roadshow.

By Dana Osborn, fourth-year Bachelor of Journalism student


In an effort to create awareness and promote mental healthcare around Makhanda, Rhodes University’s Psychology department has embarked on a roadshow to engage the community. The department of Psychology’s Senior Lecturer, Dr Duane Booysen said the roadshow seeks to provide an opportunity for his department to offer the community with information on traumatic stress and how to get help.  

The roadshow started at Joza clinic on Wednesday where community leaders were also invited to do a brief talk about mental health. The department shared information. “We have noticed that there is a lot of violence taking place but the support for the survivors is very limited. What we are trying to do is bring services and awareness to the communities where it is needed the most,” said Dr Booysen.

Dr Booysen said his department wants to space where survivors have the trust and comfort to process and talk about their experiences. “We can’t just turn a switch and forget about painful experiences, but what we do know is that when we talk about those experiences, it does bring about some relief,” he added.

Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sizwe Mabizela always preaches that “Rhodes University is not just in Makhanda, but it is part of Makhanda”. Dr Booysen echoed these words and said: “We have not come as outsiders but rather as partners that work, connect and collaborate with the people of Makhanda. We want to help survivors reclaim their life back, create awareness, and provide access to our services,” he explained.

Dr Booysen reported that more than 80% of South Africans, especially those in lower resource communities, don’t have access to mental health care. This is one of the reasons the Psychology department is bringing its services to the people.

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), “1 in 3 South Africans will or do have a Mental Health issue at some point in their lifetime, and only 1 in 10 people with a mental illness accessing Mental Health – and these were pre-COVID stats.”

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that South Africa has one of the highest rape rates in the world (police recorded rapes /100,000 population). South Africa is well into the third quartile for kidnappings, attempted murder, and other violent crimes.

Makana Local Municipality Ward 2 Councillor, Ramie Xonxa said he was impressed with what Rhodes University is doing This is a very important project. Before, people would just stay silent, and they wouldn’t get access to the facilities and help they need. I’m really excited as the ward councillor because this project adds value to this ward, it adds value to this clinic, and it is going to be of great assistance to the community,” he proudly said.

This project is being funded by the South African Medical Research Council and Rhodes University. It has also received ethical approval from the Rhodes University Human Ethics Committee and the Department of Health. It will continue to provide services at Joza Clinic and Assumption Development centre. Dr Booysen said it will be a two-year project and might even be longer depending on funding.