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Tech entrepreneur creates mental health support platform

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Tech entrepreneur Pieter Oosthuizen has launched an online mental health support platform, Obuntu, to help people battling with depression and anxiety.

The platform provides individual and group support for addiction recovery, grief and trauma counselling, eating disorders and bipolar support.

Obuntu services are rendered by qualified therapy providers and coaches whose credentials, including qualifications, are verified by relevant statutory bodies, such as the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

A high number of people in SA are dealing with stress, anxiety and depression due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, which says since April last year, depression and anxiety reached record highs.

A survey conducted by pharmaceutical company Pharma Dynamics found there has been a significant increase in psychological and emotional stress among South Africans since the start of the pandemic.

For Oosthuizen, the Obuntu platform was inspired by personal experience, having watched his sister, Anelia, battle with depression and anxiety.

He explains: “Working with my sister, we started developing a platform that would enable anyone wanting to join any type of support group for a mental health condition, or for life coaching generally, to do so in a way that’s convenient, secure and affordable. It has also been designed to protect their privacy by allowing them to hide their identity from the host and other group members should they choose to do so.

“Getting the help and support you need for any mental health condition is never easy, even in the best of times. The benefit of joining a support group has been widely recognised by mental health professionals around the world. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown made joining a support group even more difficult, while the need has never been greater.”

Obuntu provides 60-minute sessions conducted via Zoom or Google Hangouts, with the number of participants for each group session determined by the host and clearly indicated in the group profile, says Oosthuizen.

“We have also made it easy for hosts to focus on what really matters to them – helping clients – with built-in features that enable them to remain in full control of their schedules and communicate with their groups quickly and easily. Approved hosts simply create their groups, add sessions, and start helping their members.”

Oosthuizen says while the platform is currently only geared to supporting South African-based therapists and coaches, his goal is to roll it out to the rest of Africa and support mental health across the continent.

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