The Motivation Behind a Unique and Vital Mental Health Initiative


Viva College – a First in South Africa!


I am the mother of 30 year old twin boys, one of which was diagnosed with Schizophrenia at 16 years old.


1% of our population is affected by Schizophrenia.


The suicide rate for these kids is very high (40% attempt and 10% succeed).  My own son made an attempt – luckily he did not succeed.


I have found a way – after much research into the illness and facilities that were available in South Africa at the turn of the millennium – to assist decrease the devastating symptoms of this illness and other related neuro-biochemical disorders as well as to promote long term wellness and normality of life by way of assessing that:


There were no appropriate facilities in South Africa at that time for our teenagers and young adults who were affected and who were in the wellness phase, i.e. stabilized on medications. More was being done for those who were chronically ill on a clinical basis.


The facilities that existed at that time were based in questionable areas where the peddling of illegal substances was rife. These facilities catered for all ages and most of those people were chronically mentally ill.


It is a culture shock for students who have attended normal schools to suddenly be locked up in Psychiatric Hospitals, and then in their wellness phase to find themselves in Rehabilitation Centres bordering the city amongst chronically ill people who are generally older than themselves.


This sudden deviation from the life they are used to is not only conducive to discouraging wellness but, due to the depression of it all, could also induce a further relapse which could further compromise the mental state of the individual. 


The more relapses one has the more devastating the effects and the poorer the prognosis for future quality and functionality of life!


Most of the parents who have contacted me, due to the extensive media coverage we have received prior and after launching the Viva Initiative, have been keen to enrol their children who have been at home watching television all day, feeling extremely lonely due to having lost their friends during their illness phase and also not motivated after their hospitalisation as they have been leading an insular life. It is extremely depressing and frustrating for our youth due to the time and functionality that they have lost in their prime  years.

Most of these students are likely to encounter another relapse due to lack of stimulation, motivation and hope for their future.  There has been, in the past, due to lack of pro-active facilities very little quality of life for both parent and child!


The objectives to having formed an appropriate early intervention facility such as The Viva Youth College/Life Skills Centre for adolescents / young adults include:




On my research journey I have met with many relevant Mental Health Government Departments and NPOS as well as, Professor Allwood, Head of Psychiatry at the Wits Medical School. All have agreed that this huge gap needed to be filled on a National Basis.  The first College was launched successfully on August 1st, 2002 and is also service-supported by Wits Mental Health. A consultancy branch in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was launched in September 2012.. 


The positive response from professionals and volunteers has been awe –inspiring and a daily working team of Tutors, Life Skills Coaches and Professionals with Medical/ Psychosocial and Psychiatric controls for Viva is an asset to our students.


Apart from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, Viva also caters for reactive attachment disorders, borderline and cutting disorders as well as many other emotional , personality  and behavioural challenges


What these young people with so much unrealised potential need, is guidance, support and direction from caring and holistically qualified persons.

More importantly, the VIVA team, has a sound understanding of these neuro -biochemical disorders and their related effects, and will assist in the training of these young adults in social skills and will help develop their self confidence to a level where they can enter the workplace with a realistic chance of success. 


I have not yet managed to source any other Pro-active Upliftment Facilities anywhere in the world that cater for our youth diagnosed with these chemical imbalances.  Viva College is still a first and its conception and implementation has been long overdue.


Paola Macqueen

Contact Details:

Tel:  083 256 2121

Fax:  082 503 7626



Mobile landline Viva offices:  082 896 4444

Postal Address: P O Box 31999 Kyalami 1684

Physical Address: 14 Koedoe Street cnr Summit Road  Timsrand (bordering Midrand and Centurion)