Adventist Review Online | Adventist Group ‘Walks to the Moon’ to Fight Mental Health Stigma

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‘Crazy for Walking’ initiative creates awareness, offers hope in South Africa.

The chief barrier to helping people suffering from mental illness is stigma, said Francois Louw, a plenary speaker on July 12, 2019, at the 3rd Global Conference on Health and Lifestyle at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California, United States.

“Despite the existence of effective treatments for mental disorders, there is a belief that those suffering from mental illness are untreatable, not intelligent, or incapable of making decisions,” Louw said. “This stigma can lead to abuse, rejection, and isolation, and can exclude people from health care or support.”

 

  • Crazy for Walking participants in South Africa cover thousands of kilometers each year to help people start discussing mental illness and its implications. [Photo: courtesy of Vista Clinic]
  • The Crazy for Walking initiative, led by Vista Clinic, a private Adventist psychiatric hospital in Gauteng, united people across South Africa to fight the stigma of mental illness. [Photo: courtesy of Vista Clinic]

The cost of treating mental illness has increased exponentially, and people aren’t getting the help they need, said Louw, chief executive officer at Vista Clinic, a private Adventist psychiatric hospital in Gauteng, South Africa. “According to the World Health Organization, one in five people suffers from mental illness, and more than 800,000 people die from suicide every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds globally,” he said.

“These statistics are staggering. So we decided we had to do something ‘crazy’ to destigmatize the social stigma of the word ‘crazy.’” 

In 2017 Louw and his team planned a 1,500-kilometer (932-mile) “Crazy Walk,” September 4 to October 10, from Pretoria to Cape Town in South Africa, in conjunction with World Mental Health Day on October 4. Twenty-six walkers participated, wearing vibrantly colored “crazy socks.”

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