Dec 2020 Edition

NPOwer provides mental health support

Written by Allison Cooper

NPOwer, a first-of-its kind mental health support programme and 24-hour toll-free helpline for non-profit organisations (NPOs), has been launched by Tshikululu Social Investments and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG).

The organisation, itself an NPO, offers free mental healthcare and support to all NPOs in South Africa.

NPOwer provides psychological first aid to leaders, staff and volunteers of NPOs, many of whom are experiencing strain and burnout caused by the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

NPOs have always been important in providing support and care to South Africans, a fact further highlighted by COVID-19. Although NPOs provide such crucial services, their resources are often stretched and their teams are overworked and face daily trauma.

“NPOs have always provided help, resources and support to others, but never before has the mental health of our NPOs been prioritised,” says SADAG operations director Cassey Chambers.

Kelly du Plessis, CEO and Lead Patient Advocate of Rare Diseases South Africa, an NPO established in 2013, says it is well known that NPO staff are often impacted by compassion fatigue, due to the emotionally giving dynamic of the sector, compounded by the often personal nature of the services provided.

“During COVID-19, our mental health was further impacted due to the continuous financial stress of a downturned economy, coupled with many additional services needing to be provided to assist the most vulnerable members of society,” she says. 

Du Plessis believes that mental health is all too often overlooked or ignored, until it is too late. 

“Mental health support needs to be implemented throughout the sector to build resilience, avoid burnout and ensure that the sector can continue to provide much-needed services,” she says.

“There are so many aspects regarding the health of NPOs which we hope to assist with, including reducing burnout and stress and providing key mental health skills to NPO leaders, to ensure they are able to look after the mental health of their staff and build mental wellness going forward,” says Chambers.

The NPOwer programme also includes capacity workshops on NPO-related issues, a dedicated website to house multiple resources and a support network for NPOs. 

The toll-free NPOwer helpline is always open, with counselling available in all 11 official languages. You can call 0800 515 515, send an SMS to 43010 or email For more information about the services offered by NPOwer, visit

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