About us

Family Support for Schizophrenia is a family support group providing emotional and practical information and support to the relatives and carers of people living with schizophrenia. We have been going for more than forty years and have built up valuable knowledge and networks in the field of mental health.

A registered non-profit organisation, we are run entirely by volunteers and funded by members’ subscriptions, donations and fundraising. Originally Cape Town based, we now reach people all over South Africa via our online meetings, newsletter, website and email.

Our approach

As a support group, we provide a space for family members and carers of people with schizophrenia to learn more about the illness, to share common experiences and problems and to try to find possible solutions.  Members empower each other to stay positive and to take action, despite difficulties experienced. This enhances our ability to care for our loved ones and improves the broader social climate for understanding schizophrenia.

Our goals

  • To give support to the families and carers of people living with schizophrenia
  • To enlighten and educate families, carers and the public about schizophrenia and mental illness
  • To raise awareness aimed at fostering community support and involvement
  • To reduce the stigma associated with schizophrenia and mental illness
  • To advocate for the rights of persons with mental illness

Our services

  • Monthly online meetings addressed by experts in the mental health field
  • An opportunity to express feelings and needs at Caring & Sharing meetings
  • A free monthly newsletter with information about schizophrenia and mental health
  • Support, advice and information on schizophrenia, via email
  • Contact details for recommended organisations, including other support groups, social workers, other professionals, providers of supported accommodation and day programmes
  • Access to resources and information about schizophrenia
  • A lending library with books on schizophrenia and mental health

Our governance

We are a registered non-profit organisation constituted as a voluntary association of members. Our activities are coordinated by a management committee elected each year at our Annual General Meeting. 

Members of the 2023/2024 FSS management committee as at February 2024

Our history

Family Support for Schizophrenia was founded as Cape Support for Mental Health in Cape Town in 1981 by concerned parents meeting together in a family home.

It was the first support group in South Africa for relatives of people with psychiatric disorders.

Getting going

Inspired by similar groups starting up elsewhere in the world, the founders hoped to create a mutually supportive forum for those in a similar situation. 

The broad aims were to provide emotional support, to educate members and the public about schizophrenia, to counter the myths, ignorance and stigma so common in society, and to advocate for improved facilities and treatment for those living with schizophrenia.

Early days

Monthly meetings, either featuring guest speakers or offering small group sharing sessions, were the core activity. Members also actively collected and distributed information and guidelines about schizophrenia and mental health – an important function in the days before the internet – and created the nucleus of the lending library which is still in use today.

Coping skills

In 2008 Cape Support for Mental Health published its Coping Skills for Carers book, which proved to be an indispensable resource for many families. It became the group’s flagship publication and was widely distributed. The FSS 2022 revised edition of Coping Skills for Carers can be downloaded as a pdf.

Setting up facilities

Significant achievements by members in the early years included the purchase of the first Comcare group home to help fill an essential need for supported accommodation; and the initiation of South Africa’s first Fountain House, a rehabilitation and vocational training centre for people with psychosocial disability.

Moving online

From 2020, when it was no longer possible to meet in the old face-to-face way due to Covid, we moved our meetings to an online platform, and started attracting members from across South Africa. As the online environment offers the opportunity to reach more people, we will continue meeting in this way.

A change of name

In 2021, our fortieth anniversary year, our members resolved to change the organisation’s name to Family Support for Schizophrenia in order to reflect our activities, client group and focus more accurately.

The way ahead

The mission and values that inspired us for the first forty years remain unchanged, and we look forward to carrying these into the future while continuing to serve the schizophrenia and broader community.