The South African Depression and Anxiety Group

Rotary Clubs donated much needed and appreciated funding to SADAG (The South African Depression and Anxiety Group), Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy NGO, to conduct a series of school visits and talks. South Africa faces a major problem as one in five of its youth may attempt suicide. Depression is not easily understood or recognized by much of the population, particularly the youth.

SADAG has extensive experience in this field and runs a widely recognized school program educating youth about suicide prevention (see Though the program is managed at minimal cost, SADAG still relies heavily on a variety of sponsorships as the government continues to cut spending on mental health programs.

A team of 10 counselors from SADAG visited the Ponelopele Secondary School near MidRand (between Johannesburg and Pretoria) and met with 1,150 students in every one of their classrooms. Students listened to presentations and participated in the discussion and a Q&A session. Each student was also given a wrist band with the toll-free helpline number. Furthermore, a supply of Speaking Books, “Suicide Shouldn’t Be a Secret” was donated to the school as a leave behind to reinforce the messages and education given by the counselors.

It was a truly unforgettable day for the sponsors, educators, and most importantly the students. Check out some great resources from the event:

  • We created a wonderful video featuring highlights from the event.
  • You can see some amazing photos captured throughout the day.
  • Students participated in a survey following the event, click here to view a brief summary of the results.
  • The event got quite a bit of media coverage, click here to read one of the great articles.

The school has presented us with a thank you letter expressing appreciation of the SADAG program and Speaking Books and has requested that this program be continued.

This is just the first in the pilot series funded by Rotary. Following the success of this first initiative, we are now inviting other clubs to sponsor more of these events.

Thank you Rotary Clubs for helping to make a difference in the lives of so many youth.

Best wishes, The Speaking Books Team

Update: 2-13-13

The work of SADAG and Rotary Clubs to prevent teen suicide in South Africa has not gone unnoticed. The latest initiative was covered by the Specialist Forum Medical Journal Africa, and I wanted to share the article with you! You can also click here to see the research SADAG conducted following the event.

Sponsored by our Rotary Club of Hilton Head in partnership with Rotary Pretoria Capital, SADAG counselors met with over a thousand students to educate them about depression, signs of risk, and suicide prevention. We also donated “Suicide Shouldn’t be a Secret” Speaking Books to the classrooms. The event was remarkable and with further sponsorship and Rotary support the program will continue to reach more and more schools around the country. Two more school visits have been scheduled for this month.