Empowering NPO’s through the NPOwer Mental Health Support Programme

By Tshikululu Social Investments

A first-of-its kind NPO Mental Health Support Programme and 24-hour toll-free Helpline to offer mental health care and support to all NPO’s was launched in South Africa during our mental health awareness month of October.

Called NPOwer, this initiative sees Tshikululu Social Investments partnering with SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group) to provide psychological first aid to NPO leaders, staff and volunteers, many of whom are experiencing unprecedented strain and burnout caused by COVID-19.

“Our minds became shut down”. This is just one of many responses received in a survey conducted by Tshikululu Social Investments to assess the effect that COVID-19 has had on this crucial sector, with many NPO’s experiencing the twin burden of financial survival in the midst of increasing and overwhelming need.

While the pandemic has had a significant impact on NPOs from an operations and funding perspective, it is the mental health of those involved within the NPO sector that is particularly concerning, which has resulted in the launch of this NPO specific mental health support programme.

“Our research has shown that NPO’s are struggling with a myriad of issues including instability and uncertainty around financial support, challenges in retaining staff , as well as having to navigate the devastating impact of COVID on the communities that they serve,” says Dipalesa Mpye, a social investment specialist at Tshikululu Social Investments. “The need for this type of integrated psychological support programme is very clear,” she says.

“Many NPO’s have been left in the dark. Teams are overworked, they are facing trauma and lack of resources every day. With so many pandemic-related issues, some NPO’s have been forced to close their doors and stop the valuable work they have been providing when communities need it the most. NPO’s have always provided help, resources and support to others, but never before has the mental health of our NPOs been prioritised,” says Operations Director at SADAG, Cassey Chambers.

To date, the initiative has had an incredibly positive reception, which reinforces its need in the sector. As of 6 November, just over a week post launch, the following engagement had already taken place:

A total of 199 NPOs have been assisted through the platform. This assistance has mainly included:

– 43 support calls received through the Helpline
– 111 mental health conversations had been held by SADAG with Tshikululu’s

NPO Partners. A number of NPO leaders have expressed the need for direct group counseling for their teams. SADAG is currently in the process of scheduling these.

The initiative also included the launch of a mental health survey to understand the needs of NPOs and serve as a baseline for the state of NPO mental health. Thus far 67 participants have responded and 90% reporting that they have seen an increase in stress amongst staff and volunteers. The respondent profile included 48% directors /managers, 18% founders, 27% staff and 2% volunteers.

“We are excited and humbled by this partnership with SADAG and value enormously the work they do, being at the forefront of patient advocacy, education and destigmatisation of mental illness in South Africa,” Mpye says.

The NPOwer programme includes a dedicated 24-hour NPO Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Helpline manned by a team of dedicated counsellors, capacity workshops on NPO related issues, a dedicated website to house multiple resources and the implementation of a Support Network between NPOs.

The tollfree NPOwer helpline will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year with counselling available in all 11 official languages and is now live on 0800 515 515.

Messages can also be sent to a dedicated SMS line on 43010 or to info@npowersa.org

More details about NPOwer can be found on https://www.npowersa.org/.

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