African Journal of Psychiatry

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Organising for self-advocacy in mental health: Experiences from seven African countries

S Kleintjes, C Lund, L Swartz


Objective: This paper reports on overarching strategies which supported the establishment and sustainability of 9 mental health self-help organisations in seven African countries.

Method: Eleven key informants were identified through snowballing and
interviewed regarding their experience in the organisations. Thematic analysis of the interview data and other documentary evidence was guided by a coding scheme derived using a framework analysis approach to defining, categorising, mapping and interpreting textual data.

Results: Sustainability strategies include: commitment to members’ advocating for their rights and rebuilding their lives within their  communities; independent decision-making, user-led membership and leadership; financial selfsufficiency, alliances with donor organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and ministries which support self-determination and promote control over agenda-setting and responsiveness to members’ needs.
Organisations’ work include advocacy to destigmatise mental disorders and promote the protection of users rights, activities to improve access to health care and to income generation and social support, participation in legislative and policy reform, and capacity building of members. Conclusion: Self-help organisations can provide crucial support to users’ recovery in resourcepoor settings in Africa. Support of Ministries, NGOs, DPOs, development agencies and professionals can assist to build
organisations’ capacity for sustainable support to members’ recovery.

Keywords: Mental health, Self-help, Advocacy, Recovery, Africa
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