Change the world


Kayla Eberhardt is a finalist in The Herald Citizens of the Year Awards in partnership with Nelson Mandela University.

Eberhardt Wellness and Counselling is on a mission to normalise mental health care, break down the stigma attached to it and bring solutions to the masses.

This initiative has put founder and director Kayla Eberhardt in the spotlight as the health and safety category winner of The Herald Nelson Mandela University Citizens of the Year 2022 awards.

While the honour of winning the award is not lost on Eberhardt, 27, she prefers working behind the scenes, away from the limelight.

“It’s a massive honour and privilege, but it’s also very intimidating,” she said.

“My work means everything to me, it gives me purpose.

“Nothing beats the feeling of making a difference in people’s lives, and if I touch just one person in a meaningful way, I see it as a win and totally worth it.”

Growing up in East London, Eberhardt worked closely with her mother, Gussie, who was involved in various charity outreach projects, including soup kitchens and the Sweethearts Foundation where old bottle caps were recycled and wheelchairs donated to the less fortunate.

In 2017, Gussie was honoured with the Local Heroes of East London award for her charity initiatives, making her a lifelong inspiration and role model to her daughter.

Looking for a means to make a difference in others’ lives, Eberhardt thought back to her childhood and her own experiences with counsellors growing up.

“I remember going to counselling as a kid.

“I can’t even remember what for, it wasn’t too serious.

“But I clearly remember how freeing it was to speak to this person in this completely safe space.

“When I finished school I moved to Gqeberha and studied at Nelson Mandela University.

“I had psychology as one of my modules and it took me back to that childhood experience and something just clicked.

“I knew this was the way I was going to reach out to people in a meaningful way,” Eberhardt said.

She graduated in 2020 as a registered counsellor, but her mother died that same year.

Determined not to let her mother’s legacy fade, Eberhardt Wellness and Counselling opened its doors in Main Road, Walmer, last year.

Consisting of Eberhardt and her diverse team of three more registered counsellors, the centre follows in Gussie’s footsteps of community outreach programmes and community building.

Each counsellor comes from a different background, giving the centre an opportunity to provide clients with a counsellor they feel most comfortable with.

Each client’s financial means are also taken into consideration, and a sliding scale determines what is owed to the centre — if anything.

“The goal is to make mental health care accessible to everyone, regardless of your ethnicity, background or economic situation.

“We are determined to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and to normalise people seeking help.”

Last year, Eberhardt Wellness and Counselling became affiliated with the Missionvale Care Centre where they provide affordable, and in some cases even pro-bono, counselling services to the staff working there.

They also assist with workshops and training at the Missionvale centre, aimed at counselling and mental health awareness.

Earlier last year, Eberhardt also teamed up with a place of safety for abandoned and abused children in Forest Hill, offering group mental health workshops and counselling to individual children.

“We also do social media campaigns where we discuss mental health issues and some basic treatment tips that people can apply themselves.

“This approach is both a marketing strategy for our company, that is still young and needs to grow as a business, but also plants the seed for people to consider seeking help.

“Speaking about mental health openly and honestly shows people there is nothing to be afraid of, and seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of,” Eberhardt said.

When asked what the Citizens of the Year award meant to her, Eberhardt said it was another way of promoting their ethos and goal — making mental health care normal and accessible to everyone.

“It also brings me closer to my mother, even if she is no longer here. like “I I ’feel m following connected in to her her footsteps now, and somehow building on her legacy.

“This is all dedicated to her and her life,” Eberhardt said.

The top 10 category winners will be celebrated at a formal black-tie gala awards ceremony on Friday September 9, at 6.30pm at the Radisson Blu Hotel.

Corporate and single tickets are available for supporters who would like to join the celebratory event.

Contact Berna Ulay-Walters, The Herald Marketing Manager, to book your seat:

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 29 August 2022 written by Riaan Marais