JPCCC - A Long and Ongoing Fight for Mental Health
With the pandemic of COVID-19 upon us, things have changed so much in recent times, as they have too in the past 75 years of JPCCC’s existence. We thought it important to reflect on where we have come from in order to stay focused and hopeful on where we are going.
Currently, and over the past 2 decades, JPCCC has focused and been able to reach out to far more children and families, often in disadvantaged and under-resourced communities, children and families who could not access our services previously. We are seeing clients from impoverished and traumatized communities, who have suffered adverse experiences. Children from such communities often develop a highly efficient defensive system concerned with seeking safety and security, and have had few positive experience. They need help with processing difficult experiences and feelings, to enable them to carry on living more fulfilled and adjusted lives. Experiences include the present day emotional, physical and mental traumas that accompany COVID-19. JPCCC has had to draw on the expertise, resilience and experience of our organisation which goes back more than 75 years.
In 1944, there was a growing need in Johannesburg for a specialised services for children with emotional difficulties. The ‘JPCCC’ as the organisation is now known, was established by the Mental Hygiene Society of the Witwatersrand and later that year it became an independent entity. It was only in the 1970’s that JPCCC opened up services to everyone, in time to witness the height of the Apartheid regime, where children were being detained and parents were being arrested and violated for their involvement in the struggle.
JPCCC in the 1960’s and 1970’s was named the Child Guidance Clinic, or ‘The Clinic’ and was the home of psychoanalysis in Johannesburg. In 1979, The Clinic moved from the Salstaff Building in Braamfontein to the new Berea House Office. The 1980’s and early 90’s Clinic consisted of Analysts and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapists, as well as a Psychiatrist, a Senior Social Worker, and students. In-depth case discussions were held, including psychoanalytic insights and understanding at a deep unconscious level, which were riveting for young mental health students. These mental health professionals were dedicated to offering good quality services to children and their families in disadvantaged situations.
The 1990’s witnessed the birth of a New South Africa, which held much promise and hope for a new nation and a new way of being. The Clinic was providing more services to the community, and the organisation’s name was changed to the present-day Johannesburg Parent and Child Counselling Centre (JPCCC). More offices were established in Kathlehong, Soweto and Broedestroom. We also began training Educational Psychologist interns, as well as Social Work students. Gill Berkowitz started the School Counselling Services to numerous schools in Gauteng, ensuring that our community outreach was much more extensive, and we were reaching children who would not otherwise have access to mental health services. Staff also included Jacqui Michael, Irene Chait, Maureen Davidow, Jenny Shain, Maki Ramesedi, and Jennie Williams. Many of our staff have spent their whole career working with us, notably Irene, who has been with JPCCC for 41 years. In addition JPCCC has trained and worked with fantastic lay volunteers who also contribute tirelessly to improve the lives of school children.
2012 was another critical time for JPCCC, when Lotto abandoned many NPO’s like ourselves. We could not survive in the Berea House Office and in the summer of that year, moved to the Children’s Memorial Institute (CMI) Building. This building is home to JPCCC today still; a home to dedicated mental health workers devoted to the emotional, educational and social wellbeing of children, their families and their communities.
The 75th Anniversary Conference, Resilience in a Changing South Africa, was held at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre in 2019 and brought together 120 mental health professionals who face the same daily challenges in their work. Speakers included Mark Heyward, Tracey Farber and Laverne Antrobus, who explored and navigated the crucial concept of resilience and looked for new pathways in our South African context.
Clients often come from the poorest section of the population and over the years there has been an increase in the number of abuse and domestic violence cases. We have had to face the increasing violence and even murder at schools, the sexual abuse and deaths of children in South African and the reality that an increasing number of children contemplate suicide. And whilst staff work hard to process and deal with the sometimes harrowing details expressed by clients in sessions, they endure, to pay witness, to advise, to manage, and to provide therapy for children and their families that will assist in the necessary healing for their future lives and development.
We know that that the onset of COVID-19 will also prove challenging for us as an organisation, it is yet another storm we now must weather, not only financially, but also rallying to begin to support the mental health fallout that will inevitably accompany this crisis.
It is the legacy and the ethos handed down over the generations that has sustained JPCCC. We are resilient, and as united mental health care workers, we will suit up, and continue to weather this and any other storm that comes our way.