SADAG is the leading voice for patient advocacy, support, education and destigmatisation in the mental health sector, working in urban, peri-urban and rural communities throughout South Africa. Their free counseling services help thousands of people throughout South Africa with mental health issues.
SADAG recognised that they needed to look at different ways of communicating with people who need their help. Having alternative forms of communication allows more people access to vital and lifesaving resources. Tracy Feinstein, call centre manager.
SADAG manages a 30-line counselling-and-referral call centre and has an extensive database of state and private health care facilities, state and private health care providers and practitioners as well as counselling centres, other non-governmental organisations, rehabilitation centres, shelters, doctors, social workers, and more. The Call Centre receives over 2,500 calls a day from people throughout the country.
SADAG is deeply committed to providing timely mental-health-related help and guidance to those who require it urgently. The significance of a missed call or disrupted connection cannot be underestimated, as it could potentially mean the difference between life and death. Therefore, it is crucial for SADAG's communication channels to cater effectively to the needs of their users.
In South Africa, mental illness and the associated stigma represent critical challenges, leading to a surge in calls received by SADAG. Unfortunately, this high volume of calls sometimes results in missed or dropped connections. Consequently, SADAG's staff may face challenges in reaching back to callers later, given their busy schedules or the inability to have a private conversation at that moment. This unfortunate situation leaves many individuals in dire need unable to access the essential mental health services they require.
Although the organization utilises SMS and email for communication, it's essential to acknowledge that not all South Africans have consistent access to airtime or a computer to engage through these touch-points. This limitation further compounds the difficulty in reaching those who seek assistance.
Even when individuals did use the SMS and email channels to request a call from a SADAG counselor, they were not always available to speak when the counselors attempted to reach out. As a result, some callers miss the critical opportunity for immediate support during their moment of distress.
Addressing these communication challenges becomes imperative for SADAG to ensure that their vital services are accessible to all in need, bridging the gap and providing a lifeline to those seeking help and guidance.
We needed a flexible, private, and reliable way to provide a virtual counselling platform, which is why WhatsApp became a fantastic way to connect and engage with our audience. Said Tracy.
The integration of Mobile Service Cloud has significantly reduced the risk of missing messages from individuals in need, ensuring prompt responses, and simplifying the management of multiple conversations. Additionally, it has enabled SADAG to reach out to more people quickly and disseminate essential information effectively.
Given the widespread use of WhatsApp in South Africa, our counsellors required minimal training to utilise this platform effectively. The very nature of WhatsApp fosters a sense of comfort among help-seekers, empowering them to communicate on their own terms. We've found that people tend to be more forthcoming on WhatsApp than over the phone. WhatsApp chats offer the privacy needed to ask for help. Continued Tracy.
In March 2019, SADAG participated in a mere 85 WhatsApp chats. Fast forward to April 2021, and they were able to address over 3900 chats, literally helping thousands of people in need.
The team has found CM.com’s platform very professional and yet very easy to use. Furthermore, the message notifications allows SADAG to respond to incoming queries quicker than ever before.
Through WhatsApp's chat functionality, SADAG can now reach and assist a broader audience, both presently and in the future.
As we envision the road ahead, Tracy expresses her hope that the trend of online consultations will persist, offering individuals with mental health disorders the essential access to the necessary support and expertise to cope effectively.
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