Schizophrenia support group changes its image

Family Support for Schizophrenia (FSS) former committee member Ruby Ward, left, and current committee member Sue Custers with the latest version of “Coping Skills for Carers”, which was launched at the organisation’s year-end gathering in Rondebosch.

Family Support for Schizophrenia (FSS) is the new name for Cape Support for Mental Health, an organisation with a 40-year history of helping those with schizophrenia and their families.

More than 50 members and friends of the FSS attended its year-end function, at the EduExcellence school, in Rondebosch, on Saturday November 26. It was the first such gathering held by the organisation in the past three years due to the pandemic.

The organisation’s name was changed at its annual general meeting in September.

“The old name did not make it clear exactly what we offered. We wanted a name which would convey our specific focus, on schizophrenia, rather than on mental health in general,” said FSS committee member Sue Custers.

The non-profit organisation was started in Rondebosch in 1981 by parents of children with schizophrenia.

In recent years, support groups have been held at the Presbyterian Church Hall in Mowbray.

“Our main aim is to provide families and carers with emotional and practical support, which will help them in their challenging task of caring for a loved one with schizophrenia,” said Ms Custers.

The organisation also works to improve understanding and acceptance of schizophrenia and mental illness in society to reduce prejudice, stigma and discrimination.

The impact of Covid had seen the organisation’s members rely more on virtual meetings, where they had, in turn, been introduced to several new members from across South Africa and further afield, including Nairobi and Norway, Ms Custers said.

The organisation now has 55 members and distributes a monthly newsletter to 200 people.

In 2008, the organisation published “Coping Skills for Carers“, a manual edited and collated by Ruby Ward, for families and carers of people with schizophrenia.

A revised PDF version of the manual, with an “introducing schizophrenia” section, was released at the year-end function. A section on how to apply for a disability grant has been updated, and the latest versions of the Mental Health Care Act forms needed for assisted or involuntary admission to a public health facility have been added along with links to some relevant government information and services.

Visit familysupport.org.za for more information about the FSS or email mail@familysupport.org.za if you want to buy a digital copy of “Coping Skills for Carers”.