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PRESS RELEASE: SAFMH CALLS FOR INCREASED COMMITMENT FROM GOVERNMENT FOR MENTAL HEALTH CARE

2 December 2016

Every year 3 December is celebrated as International Day of Disability. According to the United Nations, “More than one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world's population, live with some form of disability. 80 per cent live in developing countries.” In South Africa we have legislation such as the Bill of Rights, the White Paper on Disability, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that protect the rights of persons with disabilities. However, without correct and timeous implementation, this legislation is unable improve lives.

Mental health received a great deal of media coverage this past year, mainly due to the ongoing Life Healthcare Esidimeni case and the unfortunate deaths that occurred following the relocation of mental health care users from the Life Esidimeni facilities to community NGOs selected by the Gauteng Department of Health. SAFMH has been vocal over the fact that we believe the relocation of these mental health care users was not handled according to the recommended process of deinstitutionalisation laid out in the Mental Health Care Policy Framework and Strategic Action Plan (2013-2020). Deinstitutionalisation is a process of replacing long-stay psychiatric hospitals with less isolated and institutionalised community mental health services. For deinstitutionalisation to be successful, it needs to go hand in hand with the upscaling of community mental health services.

This year a decision was taken that the National Disability Day event on the 3rd of December will not be a celebration as usual, but rather a commemoration to honour the 37 lives lost. The South African Federation for Mental Health supports this decision, and will be attending the National event, where we will present Government with a report compiled through research of the community based mental health care system in Gauteng. The aim of the report is to show how better implementation of the Mental Health Policy Framework is needed to improve the services and care offered to mental health care users.

In the report, SAFMH has made the following recommendations:

  • ·         The Health Ombudsman’s report on his investigation on the Life Esidimeni case must be made public to ensure transparency and accountability
  • ·         Mental health services need to be prioritised and developed with an equal level of (high) importance across all provinces in South Africa, and across rural and urban areas
  • ·         Services and resources at community level should be developed in consultation with mental health care users, their families, NGOs and other key partners to ensure that the development of such services are done in an informed and collaborative way
  • ·        The prioritisation / resourcing / implementation / monitoring of the Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Action Plan at provincial level is essential, and provincial Departments of Health need to be held accountable for failure to do so
  • ·     Savings generated through budget cuts in tertiary Psychiatric Care Facilities (such as what happened with the termination of the Life Esidimeni contract) need to be transferred to support community-based care
  • ·         Government needs to address the widely pervasive shortfalls in resources needed to adequately facilitate deinstitutionalisation policy requirements
  • ·      There is a need for NGOs to become more recognised as key partners in the delivery of mental health services and to be respected and treated as such. Government needs to recognise that without the upscaling of and provision of community-based services South Africa’s commitment towards deinstitutionalisation will never be realised
  • ·      South Africa requires more consistent and more comprehensive subsidisation of community-based services, with adequate increases and timely payments of subsidies to ensure continuity in community-based mental health service delivery
  • ·      There is a need for more family empowerment programmes to ensure that MHCUs who return to their homes are able to receive the support they require from their families and that family members are sufficiently equipped with the necessary skills to help them take care of MHCUs within their homes

SAFMH is alarmed by reports that that the relocation of 240 residents of Eastern Cape Frail Care is being handled in the same manner as that of the Gauteng Life Esidimeni patients, and we are concerned over the wellbeing of this vulnerable group. This Disability Day SAFMH would like to appeal to government to recommit to upholding the rights of persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, and to take every possible step to ensure that no service user in South Africa is subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment through system and service weaknesses.

FOR ENQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Bharti Patel - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

National Director

or

Marthé Viljoen – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Programme Manager Information & Awareness

SA Federation for Mental Health

 

 

 

20 October is commemorated as National Down Syndrome Day!

For more information on how you can become involved or show your support, contact Ancella Ramjas, National Director at Down Syndrome South Africa on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 0861 369 672.

This World Mental Health Day SAFMH is focusing on Mental Health First Aid. SAFMH Deputy Director Leon de Beer spoke to Voice of America about the topic of Mental Health First Aid and why it is important. 

 

3 October 2016

PRESS RELEASE: SAFMH SADDENED BY DEATH OF 37TH LIFE ESIDIMENI PATIENT

 

The South African Federation for Mental Health would like to express our sadness at the reports that another former patient of Life Esidimeni, Nombulelo Mthembu, has passed away. Nombulelo is now the 37th patient who has died since the Gauteng Department of Health transferred 1300 psychiatric patients from the Life Esidimeni Healthcare Centres.

The Gauteng Department of Health’s response to her death, by saying that her patient files and medical records did not come with her when she was moved and that this contributed to her death, is simply not acceptable. The Department had a responsibility to plan and oversee the cancellation of the contract with Life Healthcare, as well as the relocation process of the patients. If they did not receive all of the patient’s files, they should have taken this up with the responsible parties immediately and not allowed these patients to be moved to new facilities that did not know what their condition was or what type of care they would require. The former patients of Life Esidimeni have been let down by the duty bearers who were responsible for their care, and their rights to dignity and quality healthcare have been violated.   

SAFMH welcomes the investigation by the Health Ombudsman, but while the investigation is taking place it is essential that the remaining patient’s wellbeing remains a priority. October is commemorated as Mental Health Awareness Month, and as we begin this month SAFMH would like to call on the Gauteng Department of Health to show that mental healthcare users are a priority and that their care and wellbeing is taken seriously. We urge the Department to immediately implement steps to ensure that there are no further deaths, and that all the patients who have been transferred to new facilities receive the quality care that is their right.

 

FOR ENQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Marthé Viljoen

Programme Manager: Information & Awareness

SA Federation for Mental Health

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

PRESS RELEASE: MAKE MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID AVAILABLE FOR ALL

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH OCTOBER 2016

 

October is commemorated as Mental Health Awareness Month, and this year the South African Federation for Mental Health is focusing on the topic of Dignity in Mental Health: Psychological and Mental Health First Aid for All.

In South Africa, dignity is seen as a basic human right for all citizens, which is protected in our Constitution. When someone suffers a physical injury at home, work or school, they can generally depend on being treated with sympathy and receiving first aid treatment until they can receive professional medical help. However, when someone experiences a mental health problem or crises in these same settings, they are often stigmatised and treated as if their symptoms or experience does not qualify as a real health crises. Being treated in this way is a violation of a person’s basic human rights. SAFMH is calling on all sectors of society to make training and implementation of mental health first aid a priority, to ensure that those experiencing psychological distress are always treated with dignity and receive the assistance they require. 

Physical first aid is a concept that most people today are aware of, and most businesses, schools and organisations make it a priority to have someone on staff who is trained to administer basic first aid in the case of an emergency. Mental health first aid is a relatively newer concept, and it focuses on providing support and assistance to someone suffering a traumatic event or other mental health problem.

Car accidents, domestic violence, rape, violent crime, or natural disasters are just a few of the traumatic events that someone may be exposed to in their lifetime. In a country such as South Africa, with high rates of violent crime, domestic abuse and poverty, these traumatic events are unfortunately all too common. Studies have shown that the rates of mood and anxiety disorders, substance use, general psychological distress, social needs and impairments in social functioning increase among those exposed to crisis events.

Although psychological and mental health first aid is a relatively unknown term in South Africa, it is a potentially lifesaving skill that we all need to have. Learning how to provide basic mental health first aid will enable people to provide support to distressed individuals in the same way as they do in physical health crises. Highlighting and teaching mental health first aid skills to all will also make a significant contribution to pulling mental health out of the shadows, and ensuring that mental health care users are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

 

What is Mental Health First Aid?

Psychological and mental health first aid is the help offered to a person showing early signs of a mental health problem, experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional help is received or until the crisis resolves.

The aims of mental health first aid are to:

1. Preserve life where a person may be at risk of harm

2. Provide help to prevent the mental health problem from becoming more serious

3. Promote recovery of good mental health

4. Provide comfort to a person with a mental health problem/in a time of crisis

Mental health first aid will typically be offered by someone who is not a mental health professional, but rather by someone in the person’s social network (such as family, friend or work colleague) or by someone who may come into contact with potentially vulnerable individuals on a daily basis, such as a teacher, police officer, or social worker.

During Mental Health Awareness Month, SAFMH will be focused on educating people about the benefits of mental health first aid, and calling on government, schools and businesses to make mental health first aid training a priority to ensure that South African’s mental health is taken care of in the same manner as their physical wellbeing. SAFMH would also like to encourage all levels of society to address the stigma associated with mental ill-health so that dignity is promoted and respected and more people are empowered to take action to promote mental wellbeing.

 

FOR ENQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Marthé Viljoen

Programme Manager: Information & Awareness 

SA Federation for Mental Health

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

In the mental health sector there are many words and phrases that are used every day, the meaning of which may not be clear to people outside of the mental health field. Below are a list of words and phrases that may be frequently heard when discussing mental health.

 

DEINSTITUTIONALISATION

Deinstitutionalisation is the process of downsizing or replacing long-stay psychiatric hospitals with smaller community-based alternatives for the care of people with mental disorders or disabilities. Deinstitutionalisation is not limited to the reduction of psychiatric hospitals, instead it includes the provision of alternative mental health services, such as residential facilities.  

Deinstitutionalisation consists of three processes:

1.   The relocation of mental health care users from psychiatric hospitals to alternative facilities in the community

2.   The diversion of potential new hospital admissions to alternative facilities

3.   The development and upscaling of alternative community services

Often the greatest challenge faced in deinstitutionalisation is to creating adequate and accessible community resources. If community services are not available to replace psychiatric hospital services, mental health care users will not receive the care and treatment they need and the process will fail. When the deinstitutionalisation process is well managed, including community services being upgraded and being able to provide adequate treatment and support, this change greatly improves the lives of mental health care users.

 

UPSCALING

In mental health, mention is often made of “upscaling mental health services.”

Upscaling means to improve the quality, value, or rating of a specific product or service.

In the mental health context, upscaling of services as part of the deinstitutionalisation process refers to community organisations, such as NGOs, support groups or residential facilities, receiving funding and resources in order to improve their facilities, hire or train more staff, and improve the services they are able to offer. The upscaling of community based mental health services is in line with the Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Action Plan, and is an integral part of the deinstitutionalisation process.

 

NGO

A non-governmental organisation (NGO) is a not-for-profit organisation that is independent from the state. NGOs perform a variety of functions, depending on their focus area. They may bring citizen concerns to Government, advocate and monitor policies, provide statutory services to clients, or advocate for change in certain areas.  NGOs are a highly diverse groups of organisations focusing on a wide variety of issues, such as human rights, health or environmental issues, or religious causes. NGOs are usually funded by donations but some avoid formal funding and are run by volunteers.

Although NGOs may receive subsidies or support from Government, they are NOT a part of Government. NGOs are independent organisations that help Government to deliver community based services. NGOs provide Government with a cost—effective way of delivering services to communities and providing them with services and support.