Improving resilience through counselling and caring

Masithethe director Jackie Orsmond and her team provide psychosocial support to those in need

The Masithethe Counselling Services staff.
TIRELESS EFFORTS: The Masithethe Counselling Services staff.
Image: SUPPLIED

With 20 years of service at Masithethe Counselling Services (formerly known as LifeLine East London), Jackie Orsmond continues to ensure the organisation dedicates its time and efforts to providing psychosocial support to those in need.

“They say a problem shared is a problem halved, and we witness this every day. When you help someone, you help yourself,” said Orsmond, who joined the organisation in 2001 and has been Masithethe’s director since 2016.

“Our mission is to measurably improve the resilience of children, teenagers and adults through the provision of psychosocial support.”



Orsmond said Covid-19 had made the work of Masithethe all the more important and difficult.

“Thanks to a dedicated team, we counsel about 400 people a month, but due to the pandemic the numbers have increased to 700-900 people. At least 45% are victims of gender-based violence.

“Because our services are confidential and offered free of charge, residents of the BCMM area come to us for help when they’ve lost loved ones due to Covid-19, and for depression, anxiety, family problems, addictions such as alcohol and drugs, and work-related problems.”

She said she was proud of her team and all they managed to achieve even during a pandemic. 

Jackie Orsmond says knowing that Masithethe has the ability to offer support to those in need and change people's lives for the better keeps her motivated.
SERVICE BEFORE SELF: Jackie Orsmond says knowing that Masithethe has the ability to offer support to those in need and change people's lives for the better keeps her motivated.
Image: SUPPLIED

“It was incredibly tough but we managed to make it work. Staff worked from home, as most of the counselling was done over the phone, via WhatsApp messaging and emails. 

“As the country had never experienced a pandemic like this before, we had to be creative and open to new ways of doing things.

“It was extremely difficult for teens to limit their contact with their peers because they are social beings. 

"Online learning is not easy as it was difficult for parents to become the teachers, and family relationships were tested as financial challenges and family disputes became more evident,” Orsmond said. 

She said bereavement counselling increased exponentially and with it the need for more counsellors. 

“We conducted a lot of bereavement counselling as people lost loved ones due to the virus. Sometimes, as many as 10 family members and close friends died. We also conducted trauma debriefing for those affected by crime.

“Mental health issues such as stress, depression, anxiety and having suicidal thoughts, affect us all.

“The greatest challenges are not having enough staff to help with the huge influx of requests for counselling.”

She said during her time at Masithethe she had overseen the opening of counselling centres in Mdantsane at Nontatyambo NU2 Clinic and in Qonce. 

“One area I am very proud of is the placement of counsellors in 26 schools, who provide counselling and conduct an anti-bullying programme, study skills and our ‘Good Touch, Bad Touch’ programme from grade R to 5. 

“We have had many successes but we have not stopped there,” she said of Masithethe’s efforts. “We are opening a victim empowerment centre where we will continue to offer counselling, care and information regarding victims’ rights, especially if they are in need of a protection order or any other services.

“Our vision for the future is to see a SA where all South Africans thrive,” Orsmond said.

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