#OnMyMind: Better mental health for every child in South Africa
Every child deserves to grow up in loving, nurturing and safe environments.
Every child has the right to grow up in a loving, nurturing and safe environment, with supportive relationships and access to quality mental health and psychosocial support.
Unfortunately this is not the case for many children and young people in South Africa.
Children and adolescents face numerous challenges – including individual, social, and environmental factors – that impact their mental wellbeing. Not feeling safe, exposure to high levels of community violence, child maltreatment and gender-based violence are some of the factors that have a significant impact on the wellbeing of children and adolescents.
The COVID-19 pandemic increased the mental health burden that young people face. A U-Report South Africa poll in 2022 found that some 73 per cent of children and young people felt they needed mental health support in 2022. The disruption to young people’s routines, education, recreation, as well as concern for family income and health, has left many young people feeling afraid, angry depressed and anxious about the future.
The same U-Report poll found that 38 per cent of those who felt they needed mental health support actively sought help and a further 67 per cent of respondents stepped up to support a friend’s mental wellbeing.
A key pillar that guides UNICEF’s work in South Africa is a commitment to ending all forms of violence – from prevention and early intervention to improving the mental and physical wellbeing of young people. Parenting programmes and early childhood development form a core part of the response to give every child the best start in life.
This page aims to support YOU across four areas of action – seeking help, shifting the narrative, understanding, and having the conversation.
Being aware of when you need support and knowing where to go for help is the first step. UNICEF – with support from META – ran a 2023 mental health campaign on Facebook that reached more than 17,5 million people in South Africa with coping tips and the counselling service contact numbers for our partner, Childline, as well as the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG).
Shifting the narrative
“Growing up in a black community I had to denounce the “men don't cry” words from my system and that helped let go of a lot of past pains I had bottled up inside."
With our partner Radio Workshop we trained 117 youth reporters across nine sites on radio fundamentals and mental health. Youth reporters are leading the mental health conversation through live radio shows and outreach. A total of 184 radio shows have been produced exploring a wide range of mental health sub-topics and engaging with listeners through call-ins and on social media. A survey conducted with 445 listeners found that 81 per cent heard a youth reporter speak on the topic of mental health and of these, 86 per cent said they learnt some new information while listening. Most respondents believe that the youth reporters’ shows can help them better cope in stressful situations, by talking more freely about mental health challenges with people in their community and helping to reduce stigma around mental health.
Covered • Clean • Caring
The Covered, Clean and Caring (3Cs) programme – initially designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 – has been updated with mental health resources and training materials for hosting dialogues about mental health.
For educators and learners across 151 schools and orphans and vulnerable children centres, the Caring module introduced an “entirely new” conversation. Learners explore what mental health is and what signs and feelings to be aware of to assess your own mental health. Learners who participated in the 3Cs campaign were more likely to have had discussions about mental health than those who did not and participants also demonstrated a broader understanding of how to look after their mental wellbeing.
U-Report mental health chatbot
U-Report is a free platform for youth participation and is designed to address issues that young people care about. Providing information in response to a range of issues that young people have raised, including mental health, U-Report has created an easy-to-use chatbot.
Having the conversation
Check • Connect • Care
This programme focused on a mental health project with the school community in the Eastern Cape. The Check, Connect and Care materials were used to train 39 facilitators from 24 schools and helped parents, caregivers and community members to understand more about the mental health difficulties that their children experience, and what they can do to help. Mental health dialogues engaged children, teachers and parents to open up discussions about the mental health challenges that young people face and how adults in the community can support them. The dialogue resources contain fun-filled activities designed to encourage people to explore how they can care for one another and how they can identify and look after their own mental wellbeing.
Get help now
Speak to a counsellor in South Africa
Suicide Crisis helpline: 0800 567 567
Department of Social Development Substance Abuse helpline: 0800 12 13 14 or SMS 32312
Cipla Mental Health helpline: 0800 456 789 or SMS 31393
NPOwer SA helpline: 0800 515 515 or SMS 43010
Healthcare Workers Care Network helpline: 0800 21 21 21 or SMS 43001
Adcock Ingram Depression & Anxiety helpline: 0800 70 80 90
ADHD helpline: 0800 55 44 33
Cipla Mental Health: 076 882 2775
Maybelline BraveTogether: 087 163 2030
Ke Moja Substance Abuse: 087 163 2025