The South African Federation for Mental Health (www.safmh.org) and the Movement for Global Mental Health (www.globalmentalhealth.org), in conjunction with the World Health Organization's Civil Society Working Group on NCDs, is requesting your support to raise awareness about the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
NCDs are complex, and we require a unified approach, informed by our collective concern that NCDs will adversely impact everyone. We support an inclusive concept about NCDs. No one should be left behind! We support a life course approach, integrated into all aspects of health and beyond and consider all chronic illnesses within the broad category of NCDs. All are at risk for mental, neurological and substance use disorders; all people will benefit from a strong response to these health issues that have become a common experience around the world.
Download the FULL #EnoughNCDs #BeatNCDs campaign document: http://www.globalmentalhealth.org/sites/default/files/uploads/docs/SAFMH%20MGMH%20letter%20on%20NCDs.pdf
STRiDE project at the Alan J Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health
The STrengthening Responses to dementia In DEveloping countries (STRiDE) project aims to contribute to improving dementia care, treatment and support systems so that people living with dementia are able to live well and family and other carers do not shoulder excessive costs, risk impoverishment or compromise their own health.
SA Federation for Mental Health participated in the STRiDE workshop hosted by the Alan J Flisher Centre in August 2018. Discussions paved the way towards developing a National Dementia Plan for South Africa.
International Classification of Diseases (ICD) 11 is here!
The ICD is the foundation for the identification of health trends and statistics globally. It is the international standard for defining and reporting diseases and health conditions. It allows the world to compare and share health information using a common language.
A version of ICD-11 was released on 18 June 2018 to allow Member States to prepare for implementation, including translating ICD into their national languages. ICD-11 will be submitted to the 144th Executive Board Meeting in January 2019 and the Seventy-second World Health Assembly in May 2019 and, following endorsement, Member States will start reporting using ICD-11 on 1 January 2022.
Life Esidimeni shone a spotlight on the mental healthcare system in South Africa, but what is the way forward?
What is set to change? How will this change be brought about?
All of these questions give rise to a need to explore the system as it currently stands and to question not only the circumstances surrounding Life Esidimeni, but also other areas of the system that appear to be crumbling.
The following will serve to illustrate some of the blockages with which mental healthcare users are faced.
This was hailed as a watershed moment and the arbitration leading up to this point was deemed a success.
While officials involved in the series of tragic events were questioned and asked for explanations, to this day it remains to be seen who will truly be held accountable and how this will come about.
It is also still unclear what exactly the reasons behind the termination of the Life Esidimeni contract were, as evidence given during the arbitration hearings indicated that cost cutting and savings had possibly not been the main drivers behind the process after all.
Subsequent to this, the government published policy guidelines for the licensing of residential and/or daycare facilities for persons with mental illness and/or severe or profound intellectual disabilities.
These guidelines set out requirements for an non-governmental organisation to obtain a licence to operate a facility caring for people with psychosocial disabilities and people with severe or profound intellectual disabilities.
Stringent in nature, they seek to ensure that all facilities are licensed according to a set of strict criteria.
The difficulty with these guidelines is that they are so stringent that virtually no community-based organisation will ever be able to comply with them.
The guidelines are thus another bottleneck, in and of themselves, containing no capacitation plan and no accompanying document setting out how they are going to be implemented.
A further difficulty that has arisen from the Life Esidimeni tragedy is that there has been a loss of trust in non-governmental organisations on the part of both the government as well as the general public.
Non-governmental organisations as a whole are painted with the same brush as those organisations at which the Life Esidimeni victims died, and this is having the effect that they are struggling to obtain subsidies and funding.
This poses an immense challenge because, at present, non-governmental organisations are the only option for community-based care and community-based care is the only answer to propositions of deinstitutionalisation, as outlined in the South African Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Action Plan 2013-2020.
While the community-based model is sound and steeped in evidence-based research, poor understanding has led to ultimately catastrophic outcomes.
This has the effect that people believe the system cannot work.
A likely effect of this is that, once again, those with, inter alia, psychosocial disabilities will go back to being warehoused in hospitals that are either state hospitals or private hospitals the state contracts to care for patients, when these people could, given the availability of the necessary community-based resources, function well outside of them and have the opportunity to be integrated into and live as part of the community.
There is thus the concern that a state-heavy model of rehabilitation could bring about certain challenges such as the provision of treatment inappropriate to the needs of mental healthcare users, needless expenditure of resources and restrictions imposed upon them that violate their fundamental rights.
The Life Esidimeni Tragedy came across to many as a revelation – never before had the mental healthcare system been under so much scrutiny.
It seemed that before the tragedy, nobody had ever thought about the lot of persons with mental illness. Since Life Esidimeni, other areas of the system have also come under analysis.
Of late, it has been revealed that, in fact, the problem lies not only in “deinstitutionalisation gone wrong” but in the heart of the institutions themselves.
Shocking details have come to light, for instance, in the Eastern Cape, wherein atrocities in several hospitals have reportedly been found to have taken place.
With a damning report from the South African Society of Psychiatrists surrounding poor hospital records having been kept, deaths not having been properly reported, inappropriate use of below-par seclusion rooms and general poor standard of patient care, Tower Hospital has been identified as a facility in crisis.
In the psychiatric unit at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital, staff and patients are reportedly put at risk every day due to staff shortages.
A former mental healthcare user is reportedly seeking compensation from the hospital in the courts after having been assaulted by a patient at the facility.
An assault charge has also been in the news for having been brought against Fort England Hospital itself, as a response to abuses by nursing and security staff.
Deteriorating conditions and faltering management make it likely that this practice will continue if not increase in prevalence.
In Gauteng, there have been a spate of reported deaths among mental healthcare users in hospitals, the most recent of these having taken place at Thelle Mogoerane Hospital in Vosloorus where a patient fell to his death after breaking through burglar bars.
In brief, the situation has not changed, the treatment of people with psychosocial disabilities continues to have deleterious effects on their well-being and very little is being done to ensure they are adequately cared for.
Mental healthcare users so-situated continue to suffer with no tangible solution in sight.
The government’s attempts to regulate residential care and daycare facilities represent a concerning level of ignorance as to what will benefit mental disabilities and with psychosocial disabilities, and the emergence of other horrifying acts against these individuals in other parts of the country give credence to the notion that it is not only the mental healthcare users in Gauteng that were, and are, being failed on all fronts by duty bearers.
Much must be done – and fast – to save lives.
The month of July is Psychosocial Disability Awareness Month. A psychosocial disability is when a mental illness becomes pervasive and interferes in a person's functioning, thus preventing them from being able to claim their rights or to participate in society. People with psychosocial disabilities face a number of challenges including poor access to basic services and exclusion. For the awareness month, SAFMH has elected to launch a campaign called "Blockades in an Era of Continuum." We are doing so because although the legal and policy framework exists to provide a cohesive basket of services to people so-situated, this is not reflective of reality. To this effect, we have compiled a press release. Read it here:
PRESS RELEASE: PSYCHOSOCIAL DISABILITY AWARENESS MONTH
The month of July is annually celebrated as Psychosocial Disability Awareness Month. This month, as with any commemorative occasion, is an opportunity to reflect on the past, examine the present and look forward, deciding what we want to see for the people concerned.
According to a report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, an individual with a psychosocial disability is described as “a person…who, regardless of self-identification of diagnosis of a mental health condition, face[s] restrictions in the exercise of their rights and barriers to participation on the basis of an actual or perceived impairment.” This description discusses pervasiveness and poor access to the services to which those affected are entitled. It explicitly states that such individuals lack agency within society and that they are rendered voiceless- forced to accept the treatment meted out to them. It includes “perceived impairment”, which refers to disenfranchisement due to stigma and oppression, regardless of the capacities of the person. This should not be the reality of people so-situated- in fact, South Africa has a comprehensive legal framework set up to preclude such exclusion and entrapment. The reality, however, is starkly different, with law and policy seemingly viewed as an ideal as opposed to an imperative. This has the effect that people with psychosocial disabilities continue to languish, left in peril.
People with psychosocial disabilities- whether in hospitals, community-based settings or with their families- require a certain standard of care and a basket of services available to them. What they require in order to recover must necessarily be provided to them in accordance with the prescripts of the Constitution. Despite this imperative, lack of prioritisation means that no heed is paid to the fact that the system needs to flow smoothly, allowing the mental health care user to move from one part of it to another. There is no consistency in terms of that which is provided and no semblance of utilisation of a model designed to facilitate recovery.
The theme the South African Federation for Mental Health has elected to pursue for our 2018 Psychosocial Disability Awareness Month Campaign is “Blockades in an Era of Continuum”- this theme was selected because of the bottlenecks faced by people with psychosocial disabilities in accessing that which government is enjoined to provide. The campaign will aim to start the conversation around the extant challenges in South Africa today, contrasted with how law and policy ought to be implemented. It will have a focus on the challenges in the full complement of services- from hospital care, to community-based care, to family care. It will deal with the construct of stigma within the community as well as among duty-bearers, the lack of clarity surrounding the roles of those responsible for caring for people with psychosocial disabilities, and the challenges in integrating people with psychosocial disabilities into the community. Finally, it will discuss what the expectations of an ideal mental healthcare system are.
SAFMH is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which advocates for and raises awareness about the rights of mental healthcare users. We are constituted by 17 mental health societies which provide direct services to persons including those with psychosocial disabilities. We call upon the state to prioritise matters concerning mental health and to ensure that the system can work on a continuum such that patients can remain stable and recover. We urge the state to embark on a proper and considered process of deinstitutionalisation absent of irregularities and to adopt the recovery model for people with psychosocial disabilities and other mental health concerns. In addition, we urge the state to provide education and training to people with psychosocial disabilities and the general public so that they will understand the rights to dignity, equality, freedom and security of the person, access to healthcare, access to food and water and other associated rights as they relate to people so-situated.
People with psychosocial disabilities are prolifically vulnerable and near-universally neglected. The need to remove these blockades is desperately urgent. Psychosocial Disability Month may not be a panacea for this social ill, but it is an opportunity to raise awareness about these issues. It is time for the system to #takeitsplace and provide adequately for people with these illnesses.
Project Leader: Information and Awareness
South African Federation for Mental Health
011 781 1852
072 2577 938
Corporate wellness is an integral component of the work environment. In an unhealthy work environment, there is decreased productivity, higher absenteeism, poorer work ethic and even less safety in the workplace. The 2nd to the 6th of July is Corporate Wellness Week- an opportunity for the raising of awareness surrounding the need to create a healthy work environment. SAFMH has compiled a press release to this effect. it appears below:
PRESS RELEASE: CORPORATE WELLNESS WEEK 2018
From the 2nd to the 6th of July is Corporate Wellness Week. A healthy workplace is key to ensuring productivity among employees. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the average person spends a third of their adult life in the workplace. It is thus important that the workplace is somewhere that employees can function at their peak. The WHO proposes the following:
A healthy workplace is one in which workers and managers collaborate to use a continual improvement process to protect and promote the health, safety and well-being of all workers and the sustainability of the workplace
According to Stoewan, (2016) organisations have- in addition to the obligation to provide physically safe work environments- the opportunity to foster healthy workplaces. She cites the psychosocial work environment as one such component. Indeed, the promotion of good mental health among workers is integral. Unfortunately, there is a prolific lack of focus on this component, with the effect that many employees work in a state of poor mental health. To this effect, the World Federation for Mental Health states that 10% of the employed population have taken time off for depression, that 6 in 10 people say poor concentration impacts on their concentration at work, that mental health conditions cost employers over $100 billion per annum and that 217 million workdays are lost per year. According to Hamdulay (2018), “mental illness in the workplace leads to decreased productivity, increased sick-related absenteeism, poor work quality, wasted materials and even compromised workplace safety.” Supporting employees’ mental well-being should therefore not be an option, but an imperative.
Often, employees do not feel comfortable addressing their mental health issues with their employers. A survey by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (2017) showed that only 1 in 6 employees who had a mental illness indicated that they would be comfortable disclosing this to their manager. This is undoubtedly due to actual or perceived stigma. Stigma is pervasive throughout society, but can be increasingly pernicious in the workplace, where employees fear reprisals for what they perceive to be weakness.
Brohan and Thornicroft (2010) highlight further difficulties, such as prospective employees’ job applications being turned down on account of their mental illness or cessation of people looking for work because they anticipate being discriminated against. They also illustrate that the disclosing of a mental illness in the workplace can lead to phenomena such as “micro-management, lack of opportunities for advancement, over-inferring of mistakes to illness, gossip and social exclusion.” Breaking through these barriers is vital in ensuring that a workplace is healthy.
Stoewan also pinpoints examples of other “psychosocial hazards” in the workplace. These include poor work organisation, poor organisational culture, issues surrounding “control and command management style” and “lack of support for work/life balance.”
There are ways in which an environment can be modified in order to make it conducive to the promotion of good mental health among employees. One example is that of reasonable accommodation. Provision for this is made in South Africa’s Basic Conditions of Employment Act. This concept denotes making justifiable allowances for an employee with an illness or a disability who can still fulfil the inherent requirements of their job provided certain adjustments are made. This however excludes instances where the accommodation would lead to unjustifiable hardship or restrictions upon the employer. Examples of this include flexible working hours, introducing tasks incrementally after an employee has been on sick leave, creating a quiet work environment, change of supervisor if required and reassignment of employee to an alternative post.
It is also important to raise awareness of mental health issues throughout the workplace- involving employees and their managers so as to dispel the aforesaid stigma and ensuring that it is made known what steps are to be taken in the event that an employee does develop a mental health issue or has a pre-existing condition. It is wise to put this in a policy document to create certainty.
The South African Federation for Mental Health is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) seeking to uphold and protect the rights of people with mental illnesses, psychosocial disabilities and intellectual disabilities. We offer training and resources on corporate wellness from a psychosocial support perspective. We call upon employers to facilitate mechanisms to achieve the objective of achieving a healthy workplace.
The WHO defines mental health as…
… a state of wellbeing in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
Let us be healthy in our work.