Innovation summary

The goal of the Gauteng Consumer Advocacy Movement (GCAM) is to give people living with mental disorders a means to communicate and support each other in the personal, political and social struggle against injustice, stigma and exclusion.

GCAM was created by service users who have been empowered and are in turn empowering others to advocate on their own behalf through the following:


  • Training mental health care users on advocacy, human rights and mental health topics
  • Developing and supporting advocacy groups and support groups
  • Supporting basic skills development and promoting talents and abilities of service users

Education and Advocacy

  • Influencing mental health-related policies and legislation
  • Campaigning and educating the public on mental health issues
  • Exposing and addressing human rights violations
  • Collating information and maintaining a presence at mental health conferences and seminars

Impact summary

  • GCAM activities engage an average of 3,000 service users each year
  • Over 90% of human rights violation cases in which GCAM is involved result in a positive outcome
  • Total cost $30,000 USD per year

"I’m grateful to GCAM for all they have done for me, being in my corner, fighting for me and taught [sic] me that schizophrenia is not a death sentence. I owe my whole existence and where I am today to them, because they went above the call of duty by getting me legal representation as well as going to court with me, and by keeping my spirits up when there were days I felt lost and hopeless. If it wasn’t for them, I think I would be on the streets with nothing to live for."


-Ryan Jaggard, Service User Edenvale, Gauteng


Innovation details

GCAM is currently the largest and most active mental health care user movement in South Africa, focusing on seven major areas of action:

  • Supporting the development of mental health care user movements in the rest of the country and in other developing countries, by acting as consultants
  • Creating and supporting alternatives to existing models of care and treatment
  • Lobbying for access to improved public mental health services, the most effective treatments and better continuity of care following hospital discharge
  • Influencing mental health care policy and legislation
  • Acting against any kind of discrimination in society (both inside and outside the mental health system) of people with mental disability
  • Identifying and addressing the holistic needs of persons with mental disability
  • Demanding that the rights of persons with mental disability be respected and protected

GCAM also focuses heavily on public awareness and outreach on mental health and human rights-related topics. “Experts by experience” lead efforts to eliminate stigma and discrimination and replace the myths attached to mental health with accurate, evidence-based information. For example, digital stories are being developed as a communication strategy to promote the abilities rather than the disabilities of people living with mental health problems.

Key drivers

Engaging service users

The Movement is led by “experts by experience” with a common goal of improving their own lives and those of others through empowerment and collaboration.  All Movement activities are conducted by volunteers. As a result, the Movement has achieved much even with very limited resources.

Understanding unique needs

Activities are implemented according to the needs of mental health care users. Each community is assessed as a unique setting with unique needs.


Insufficient funding towards strategic and operational costs, including lack of funding to adequately compensate representatives in the form of stipends, results in the inability of the Movement to expand its reach to other communities as well as other provinces in South Africa. Insufficient funding further causes a lack of human resources. Full-time staff are needed to assist the management of the Movement during its rapid growth.   


Some representatives do relapse, while most obtain full-time employment or enter into learnership programs. Even though the retention of volunteer representatives poses a challenge, it is also an achievement. Those who find full-time employment or enter into a learnership program prove that the Movement has served its purpose: to empower mental health care users and lead the way to independence. An ideal solution to this challenge would be to employ representatives full-time, but this option remains unrealistic unless sufficient funding can be secured to pay salaries.

One ongoing challenge has been lessened through the activities of the Movement:

Lack of respect for service users

In the early phases of the Movement, the “voice” of mental health care users was not taken seriously or considered as an important factor in the mental health system or in society more broadly. Over time as the GCAM has become better established, this has begun to change allowing the Movement to act as a recognized body representing people living with mental disorders.


When the Movement started off in 2006, it was active in only 3 regions (Ekurhuleni, West Rand, Johannesburg) within the Gauteng province. In 2009 it expanded to the greater Gauteng province. GCAM plans to become an independent organization within 5 years and ultimately to help create a national body. GCAM uses a model that is easily adaptable to any given setting within South Africa and other countries (low-, middle-, and high-income).


The Gauteng Consumer Advocacy Movement functions as a project of Central Gauteng Mental Health Society and is completely driven by persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities.


The Multi Agency Grant Initiative/HIVOS funded the innovation for 4 years, though funding expired in 2013. Several funding applications have been submitted to national and international donors, so far unsuccessful. The Department of Social Development contributes in the form of a subsidy towards the salary of the project coordinator.

The innovation further relies on generating income through:


Evaluation methods

A survey was conducted in 2011 to evaluate the impact of GCAM on its members over the past five years of operation.1

Cost of implementation

Total cost is $30,000 USD per annum.

Impact details

  • GCAM conducts its various activities with an average of 3000 mental health care users per annum.
  • At least 100 mental health care users in the last financial year were assisted in terms of accessing employment or learnership opportunities
  • The Movement deals with an average of 35 human rights violation cases annually, of which an average of 2 cases are serious to the extent where legal intervention is required
  • From the total cases per year, at least 90% result in a positive outcome 
  • The remaining 10% of cases fail due to lack of evidence of the incident/s reported or where the plaintiff decides not to proceed
  • 82% of respondents to an impact survey reported that GCAM had improved their confidence, self-esteem, sense of equality and acceptance of their mental health disorder


  1. Gaunteng Consumer Advocacy Movement (2011) The Impact Survey 2011 Outcome. (accessed 27th November 2013)
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