SADAG says it’s inundated with calls from people in desperate need of help this festive season

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The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) says it is inundated with calls from people who are overwhelmed and desperately need help.

The festive season is the season to be jolly, a time for family. It is also a time for friends and a time to relax and unwind from the year’s worries and woes. Yet for some, it’s a dark period, one that triggers a slew of painful memories.

36-year-old Kgaugelo Habyane has never gazed with wonder at Christmas trees. Habyane never experienced the joy of the festive season or tinsel and presents, of traditional ham and pudding.

“My December was very different from what it is now. When my family would go away…I would stay home. Little did I know that I have a mental illness,” says a Mental health survivor, Kgaugelo Habyane.

SADAG says the festive season is not celebrated by all and sundry. Many are simply lonely and financial pressures mean added anxiety.

“Everyone looks so happy … it’s almost like we are forced to be happy and joyous,” says Cassey Chambers from SADAG.

The holiday blues also come with a high volume of calls to SADAG. A staggering 3 000 daily, 1 in 4 is suicide-related.

While there’s no spike in suicide calls this time of the year, SADAG is still flooded with calls from people who are facing serious emotional and mental challenges.

“The calls we receive are heart-wrenching. It’s different in nature,” says SADAG Call Centre manager Tracey Feinstein.

Those who can’t reach SADAG due to load shedding are urged to try again or utilise the SADAG WhatsApp line as indicated on their website. The SADAG Toll-Free number is available 24/7 countrywide.

Meanwhile, Habyane inspires hope by encouraging people who feel lonely and depressed to prioritise positive activity and find meaningful connections. SADAG also urged people to refrain from making prank calls as this makes it difficult for people genuinely in need.

As people prepare for homely conversations and warm meals, spare a thought for those enduring a cold Christmas and hold out a helping hand, it is after all a season of giving.