29 Jul
2022

Liberty Two Degrees advocates for mental health support within its retail spaces


mental health

Mental health related challenges were exacerbated in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which saw rates of depression, anxiety and suicide rise alarmingly

A study conducted by Wits School of Economics and Finance showed that the prevalence of depressive symptoms doubled between 2017 and 2020.

Exercising its duty of care within its malls, with the objective of not only educating the public about mental health but also giving access to resources that provide mental health support, Liberty Two Degrees (L2D) has partnered with Panda, a free-to-download digital app that is designed to put mental health information, community support and expert help literally in the palm of the user’s hand. This facility is open and accessible to the general public.

Amelia Beattie, Chief Executive at L2D comments, “As people, our mental wellbeing is the most important component of our day-to-day functioning. When our mental wellbeing is negatively impacted, everyone around us is affected whether directly or indirectly. As a business, the wellbeing of our people is of utmost importance to us, and through our assets, we are responsible for the safety and security of the thousands of people that make use of our shopping centres. It is therefore very important for us as L2D to contribute to a meaningful cause such as this. Through our SAFE Spaces strategic initiatives, we aim to advocate for better care for people suffering with mental health challenges. In partnership with Panda, we aim to bridge the gap by making mental health resources freely accessible within our assets.”

Many of the approximately one-third of South Africans who may suffer from some form of mental health challenge sometime in their lives, struggle to afford the necessary support. With this in mind, L2D piloted this initiative at Sandton City, and is currently rolling this out to other owned centres including Nelson Mandela Square, Eastgate Shopping Centre, Liberty Midlands Mall and Liberty Promenade.

Visitors can access QR codes available on the digital screens at the centre. Furthermore, visitors are urged to also access the app through the public address. Using the promo code #SandtonCity, users can anonymously; access seven 30-minute sessions from a mental health professional, engage in audio-only peer-led discussions with others facing similar challenges, as well as join expert-led group discussions to better understand mental health-related topics.

Apart from the live interactive sessions, Panda users can complete assessments to identify areas where they need support the most, with evidence-based programmes being recommended based on assessment feedback. There is also a gamified means for users to track their progress to monitor how they have improved over time.

To eliminate any incidences that occur from mental health challenges, such as suicide, some of the direct steps taken in high-risk areas at Sandton City include locking high-incidence access doors and raising the height of the balustrades.

L2D has been affirmed by the Safe Asset Group, a global certification and advisory company, as the first responsible owner in Africa to achieve the international SHORE certifications, for all its malls. All malls in the portfolio underwent the annual SHORE assessment and achieved Gold ratings for 2021. The SHORE certification includes risk, security, operational resilience, and a duty of care towards tenants and customers.

“We believe that mental health awareness is important to discuss year-round, but highlighting this during Mental Illness Awareness Month provides a dedicated time for mental health advocates across the country to come together as one unified voice. Our role as a nation to support each other through such conditions is an important one. We can all play our part to support those affected,” Beattie concludes.

To download the Panda App on the Android store, click here, and this video makes it easy to follow the steps to do so.


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