Flying a kite for mental health in Manenberg

Brightly coloured kites of rainbows, birds and sea life briskly flew in the sky above the Heideveld Sports Field in Manenberg, Cape Town as hundreds of children, parents and caregivers participated in Cape Mental Health’s kite festival.

Text by Mary-Anne Gontsana. Photos by Ashraf Hendricks – GroundUp

Founded in 1913, Cape Mental Health provides essential mental health services. The theme for this year’s event is #FlyYourDreams. To mark Mental Health Awareness Month, the organisation is hosting different events in communities across the Western Cape throughout October. The events raise awareness about mental health and aim to reduce stigma associated with intellectual disability. The organisation said their events will focus on the mental health and wellbeing of children, especially those in poorly resourced communities.

Bobby Gathoo shows off the kite he designed to look like a swallow.

Many of the children attending the event are from Cape Mental Health’s facilities in Heideveld, Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha, as well as from early childhood development (ECD) centres in Heideveld.

Resident Tasneem Jacobs, who was helping her four-year-old daughter fly a rainbow kite, said they were walking to the shop when she noticed the colourful kites in the sky. “I recognised the kites because I have attended the organisation’s kite festival before … I don’t think there is enough awareness about mental health because people still don’t take it seriously in our communities,” she said.

Manenberg resident Tasneem Jacobs helps her four-year-old daughter, Almaaz Colbie fly a small kite she got at the event.

“People with mental health conditions get discharged quickly from public facilities without getting proper treatment, or they end up discharging themselves,” said Jacobs.

Cape Mental Health’s Barbara Meyer said they wanted to bring awareness and access to people in communities where their free services are needed the most. “We offer support services and awareness for persons with intellectual disabilities and people with psychosocial disorders. That would be people with depression, bipolar, schizophrenia,” said Meyer.

According to the organisation’s donor development manager Sandra Ellis, Cape Mental Health is subsidised by the state but that they needed other income to be sustainable. “So we rent out premises, we make products that we trade and sell, like woodwork and cement products, catering. We also host events like the kite festival. We welcome donations as well.”

Asked why kites, Ellis said, “We haven’t found anything else that provides such a good springboard for talking about mental health, as a kite. With kites, you have to look up. It elevates you and there’s a fun element. It brings out the child in all of us.

“And whether it’s a homemade kite or store bought, it’s accessible to everybody. A kite is a backdrop for us to talk to people about the services we offer at Cape Mental Health,” said Ellis.



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