#breakingstigma: It’s Okay To Not Be Okay



Janssen South Africa collaborates to combat stigma

Image supplied by the publicist


South Africans are pushed to their mental health limits near daily and Janssen South Africa highlights that it’s okay to not be okay.

Janssen Neuroscience South Africa launched a campaign to dispel stigma associated with mental health, creating awareness amongst the public and healthcare professionals about the importance of checking-in on mental health. The campaign, #breakingstigma, is a collaborative effort between Janssen Neuroscience South Africa, The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), and The South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP).

The past decade has seen a significant ramp-up in the pressures associated with mental health in our communities.[1] The pandemic, social isolation and significant life changes concomitant to the myriad of measures people had to live by, an energy crisis that impedes work and play, along with inflation and security challenges.[2],[3]

While conversations around mental health have become more common in recent years, stigma and misconceptions still exist, which can prevent people from seeking help and opening-up about how they are feeling. The COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified the importance of maintaining good mental health as people face increased uncertainty and fear of contracting the virus, along with significant changes to their daily lives.

According to Moustafa Kamel, Medical Affairs Director at Janssen South Africa,

“Mental health remains one of the most important areas in public health. The stigma and discrimination attached to mental health diseases prevent many people from seeking treatment, leading to significant social and economic consequences. The #breakingstigma campaign is an opportunity for us to collaborate with key stakeholders to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage individuals to prioritize their mental wellbeing.

Unchecked, mental health can shape up to becoming a major health risk amongst South Africans”,


said Kamel.

“Living with treatment resistant depression (TRD) is not easy and I think depression overall is misunderstood”,


says John Clay, a patient living with TRD.

“The worst thing about living with it is the very deep dark hole that you go into; where you contemplate the worst things in life, for example, suicide or self-harm, and consequently hurting your family.”


Pearl Ndlovu, a patient who has been living with depression for years says:

“There is no shame in mental health. It can be overwhelming, however with support and treatment, it is manageable.”


The #breakingstigma campaign focuses on four themes, starting with “Begin the Conversation” which aims to address questions such as whether labels are necessary, if mental health is real, and why mental health is not prioritized. The second theme, “It is Okay to Not be Okay,” looks at managing mental health in communities, workplaces, schools, and universities. Thirdly it addresses “Discrimination in Healthcare” and highlights the need to prioritize mental health and increase access to resources. Finally, “The Buck Stops Here” focuses on creating safe spaces for people facing mental health issues, aiding the caregiver burden, and optimizing the standard of care for mental health.

SADAG’s Casey Chambers said:

“There cannot be enough emphasis on the risks of ignoring mental health, and it starts with dispelling stigmas that are associated with various conditions that many people suffer from. It is, in many ways, impacting more people than we realise, but the door should be open to allow people to come forward, without judgement.”


SASOP President, Dr Sebolelo Seape, added that there has been a marked increase in mental health challenges amongst South Africans due to the significant amount of stress citizens live and work under. Economic, social, and family pressures are immense right now. Dr Sebolelo said it’s important that people take the first step toward mental health.

Kamel said:

“There is no time like the present to address an important aspect of twenty first century living, and no time like now to exercise self-care, particularly when it comes to mental health.”


Should you require counselling support, reach out to SADAG on the 24-hour helpline (0800 456 789) or SMS 31393.


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4698554/. Accessed: 13 March 2023

[2] https://www.sadag.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3282:sadag-s-new-load-shedding-survey-results-sheds-some-light-on-the-impact-on-mental-health-in-south-africa&catid=149:press-releases&Itemid=101. Accessed: 13 March 2023

[3] https://www.citizen.co.za/news/south-africa/load-shedding-anxiety-depression-fatal-psychologists/#:~:text=Psychologists%20have%20warned%20that%20load,can%20be%20also%20be%20fatal. Accessed: 13 March 2023
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