Hi guys, its been quite a while since I’ve been here on the blog. I hope you are all well and dealing with the craziness that 2020 has brought us. It seems like a lifetime ago that we all celebrated the start of this new year with so much of positivity and optimism. I would like to maintain that this year is still going to bring good things into our lives and if nothing else it’s certainly going to be a memorable one.

Life has dealt my family and I quite a few blows since last year. It felt like a dark cloud has followed us. It started with my dad being seriously ill last year. He spent 42 days in ICU and there were moments when we were unsure whether he was going to make through the day. However, with God’s grace and my father’s unrelenting fight, he made it through and came back to us.

Just as dad seemed to be making good strides in his recovery, my parents, siblings, niece and nephew went through quite a traumatic incident. They were ambushed, terrorized and robbed in my parents home by three armed men. Despite the fact that I was not present when it occurred, this was actually an extremely traumatic experience for me too. Driving to my parents home all I could think was how lucky they were that they were not harmed. I could very well have been driving to the murder scene of my entire family. I never gave much thought to such the possibility of something like this happening and how deeply it would affect me. Why would anyone think such thoughts on an average day, right?

But let me tell you, it shook me to my core and it took me months to start feeling more like myself again. And well if this wasn’t enough for all of us, I went through a divorce at the end of the year after 18 years of marriage and two children. It was a long time coming and thankfully, Shahir and I went through this in an amicable manner and our first priority was and will always be the kids. Shahir and I remain good friends.

Going through all of these life events and all the feelings that are attached to them got me thinking about issues around mental health and as a Psychology major myself this topic is very close to my heart.

Given the time we’re in now with the Covid-19 pandemic and the country … actually most of the world being in lockdown; we all find ourselves dealing with different forms of stresses, which do affect our mental health. This is affecting children, adults, the elderly all in different ways. I myself feel like I’m losing the plot as I am working from home, managing and assisting with the kids’ homeschooling, cleaning house and cooking. You all can probably relate. Then there are the financial pressures that come into play. Some families are affected by this in worse ways than others. Then comes the anxiety around the virus itself and the issues that one needs to consider if infected together with the need to keep your family safe and healthy.

Given my own stresses and the stresses we may feel as a collective, I thought this would be the ideal time to share with you guys the work of an amazing organization called Project Me.

Project Me, which was established last year, by Thanisha Sewpersad is a Not For Profit Organization geared towards mental health awareness and prevention in communities.

I had the opportunity to sit down with the brainchild of the organisation over some delicious coffee at the Antique Cafe in Durban (back when we were still able to meet for coffees) to discuss what this organization is all about, their current initiatives and the vision that Thanisha and her team have to take this further.

Thanisha has developed a huge scope of experience over the years both locally and overseas. It was during her time in Bali that she started to experience the view and treatment of mental health in a different light to traditional methods. Coming back to South Africa, she found that mental health here in SA is recognized as a problem but there is very little understanding of the problem and even less prevention strategies in place. This is what gave birth to Project Me.

Project Me has adopted the approach of promoting psycho-social education as a means to prevent mental health problems. They aim to strengthen communities and improve the pschological well being of their clients through tailor made knowldege and programmes.

Thanisha has created a mutli-cultural and multi-discplinary team who are passionate about mental health. Their focus on the preventative care ties in with the South African term Ubuntu, which indicates community members caring for each other. The approaches used are not traditional methods of therapy, which usually kicks in after diagnosis. Project Me focuses on muti-systemic techniques that make positive changes in various social systems including homes, schools, peer relations and community.

There are three programmes that Project Me has designed and working on at the moment viz. The Hero Project, Our Community Project and Talks. The Hero Project is implemented in High Schools around KwaZulu-Natal, and works closely with teenagers, providing pyscho-social education in their environment. The Project Me team, works within the school as this is an effective means of promoting mental health development of young people. They become a familiar presence in the school setting, and create a connection with the kids through projects e.g. building a Peace Garden. They start to get the children to realize that it is normal to talk to their peers about their problems and for the peers to respect each other. This is such an important initiative and how extremely sad that these children are currently without this support during the lockdown and schools are closed.

Project Me further works with the parents of the children, which allows them to start working with the community. This allows the program to move from an individualistic focus to a broader socio-cultural and socio-economic focus. This also opens up the dialog about the normality in talking about mental health issues between families and friends. The community element helps the Project Me team understand the areas that could be contributing to the mental health challenges within the community and help them to talk about the issues and work towards coping with the issues being faced.

Thanisha and her team are always looking to assist people in need of support and they give their time quite selflessly to those in need.

Thanisha has during the course of the lockdown been a sounding board for me as well and has helped me with my anxieties, helped me unpack the racing thoughts in my own mind and has enabled me with the tools to keep myself calm during these stressful times.

You can contact Project Me on:

I hope that you have found this blog useful and remember you are not alone.

Mobile: 062 797 1355

Email: info@projectmesa.co.za

Website: www.projectmesa.co.za

Instagram: @projectmedbn

With Love and Gratitude

-Aarthi