From the 3rd of November to the 3rd of December is Disability Rights Awareness Month. This year SAFMH has elected to focus on community-based care. This is an area that is chronically under-prioritised but all-important as it is a core component of the deinstitutionalisation process to which South Africa has committed itself. To this effect, SAFMH has compiled a press release on the topic. Read it here:
Disability Rights Awareness Month annually runs from the 3rd of November to the 3rd of December 2018. This represents an opportunity to look back on the past, examine the present and envisage the future we want to see in terms of services for and the realisation of the rights of persons with disabilities. The South African Federation for Mental Health, as an NGO focussing on upholding and protecting the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities and intellectual disabilities, has elected to embark on a campaign surrounding community based care and its associated imperatives such as deinstitutionalisation and the need to prioritise services to individuals so-situated and thus to highlight the plight of these individuals.
It has been internationally recognised that people with psychosocial disabilities and intellectual disabilities should only be institutionalised as a matter of last resort. Hospital environments are restrictive, cost-intensive and by necessary implication limit the ability of patients to exercise their rights. It has been proven time and time again that integration/reintegration into communities aids the recovery of mental health care users through empowerment and allowing them, as indicated, to attain more of their rights than they would be able to in a hospital environment and that, with appropriate support, that such individuals can experience marked and profound positive outcomes. While South Africa has committed to a process of deinstitutionalisation, its government has not adequately built up a system of reintegration into communities and there is often simply nowhere for people with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities to go, meaning that they are warehoused in hospitals, sometimes for decades. The lion’s share of community-based care is provided by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), but they are in most cases not adequately capacitated not adequately subsidised by the state. This was one of the factors leading to the disastrous violation of human rights in the Life Esidimeni Tragedy, in which 144 mental health care users lost their lives while residing at NGOs.
Our campaign is entitled “Community Based Care: The Imperatives” and will serve to raise awareness of the following issues:
The campaign will be constituted of several activities. These include press releases, opinion pieces, a policy brief on community-based care, an open letter to the President on failings surrounding community-based care, a submission to the President on the impact failure to implement the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has on people with psychosocial disabilities and intellectual disabilities and activities on social media. It is our intention to paint a comprehensive picture of the situation in which people with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities find themselves and also to propose solutions for duty-bearers to consider in their work around such individuals. The goal is to inspire a call to action and to catalyse positive change in the lives of people living with these conditions.
It is our hope that our campaign will adequately serve what we view as an extremely important purpose. People with psychosocial disabilities and intellectual disabilities are among South Africa’s most vulnerable and it is integral that their rights are protected. The community-based care imperative is one of the most vital components of recovery and a determinant of quality of life. There is no reason that people in this position should be denied the right to live in their communities and to become accepted and productive members of society. Steps must be taken to facilitate this forthwith and we urge government to take the necessary steps to do so.
Project Leader: Awareness and Information
South African Federation for Mental Health
011 781 1852
072 2577 938
SAFMH was represented at the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit held in London, UK from 9-10 October 2018, that brought together the world's political leaders, innovators, persons with mental health conditions, policy makers and civil society to share the most effective and innovative approaches to mental health and psychosocial disabilities.
The Summit hosted 6 workstreams to showcase innovations from across the globe and work to develop consensus statements to be delivered to political leaders: Children, Young People and the Now Generation; Caring Societies: creating the conditions for inclusion, prevention and wellbeing; The Economics of, and Investment in, Mental Health Finance; A Just Society: supporting societal shifts, tackling stigma and discrimination, creating inclusive societies; Mental Health Services around the World; and Research and the Future of Mental Health.
The workstreams’ recommendations were presented to the Ministers of Health present at the Summit – click HERE for the recommendations.
The Ministers of Health, themselves, signed a declaration in commitment to prioritise mental health in their respective countries – click HERE for the Global Declaration.
Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health and Sustainable Development
The 2007 and 2011 Lancet Series on global mental health helped make mental health care a greater priority worldwide and led to the launch of the Movement for Global Mental Health.
However, it remains a grim reality that the vast majority of people affected by mental health conditions globally still do not receive adequate treatment and care, which prolongs suffering and causes colossal societal and economic losses. The situation is worsened by human rights abuses – and even torture and incarceration – of people with mental health conditions. This is also truly a global issue; for when it comes to mental health, all countries are still developing.
To respond to these challenges, The Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health & Sustainable Development aims to give fresh impetus to the prioritisation of mental health and ensure physical and mental health are valued equally by the global health and development communities. Seeking to catalyse action, the Commission outlines a blueprint for action on mental health to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
One of the unique guiding principles of the Commission emphasizes that mental health should be respected as a fundamental right, by putting people living with mental health conditions at the centre of planning services and challenging stigma. Everyone is entitled to dignity, autonomy, care in the community and freedom from discrimination.
Commissioned by The Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious journals, the final report is the outcome of three years of dedicated efforts by a group of 28 Commissioners from across the globe. They brought considerable expertise in diverse scientific and policy disciplines, as well as lived experience of mental health conditions, to the process.
The Commission was supported by The National Institute of Mental Health, Wellcome Trust, Grand Challenges Canada and MQ-UK. The formal launch of the Commission report was launched on 10 October 2018 in London in the United Kingdom, supported by an international group of public engagement team and partners.
To learn more about the Commission, visit www.globalmentalhealthcommission.org
The South African Federation for Mental Health has published a study on "Young People and Mental health in a Changing World: Snapshots and Solutions." The theme of the study was so-chosen as it is the theme selected by the World Federation for Mental Health for World Mental Health Day. The study discusses a total of 14 themes, each dealing with an issue faced by young people and affecting their mental and then proposes policy interventions whereby protective shields can be built around young people in respect of these issues. Read it here.
Mental Health Awareness Month is celebrated each October with World Mental Health Day on the 10th of October. These are two of the most important commemorative occasions for people with mental illness, psychosocial disability and intellectual disability as they serve to draw attention to the challenges faced by individuals so-situated and to highlight what needs to be done to give them a better future. This is a time of opportunities for human rights advocates- a time to strive for the realisation of the rights of these individuals and to hold duty-bearers accountable for issues that prevent them from accessing that to which they are entitled. To this effect, SAFMH has drafted a press release on the topic. It appears below:
October is annually celebrated as Mental Health Awareness Month, with the 10th of October being World Mental Health Day. These are two of the most important commemorative occasions for people with mental illnesses and mental disabilities and those advocating for their rights as they represent an opportunity to interrogate how such individuals are situated and to make some suggestions as to how their circumstances could be bettered.
Each year, the South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) elects to support and focus on the theme chosen by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH). This year, the theme is “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.” With a clear multitude of dimensions, this subject creates space for a great deal of analysis and awareness-raising, and SAFMH has undertaken to conduct an array of activities in this regard.
In its lead-up to World Mental health Day, the World Federation for Mental Health has articulated the following:
Imagine growing up in our world today. Constantly battling the effects of human rights violations, wars and violence in the home, schools and businesses. Young people are spending most of their day on the internet – experiencing cyber crimes, cyber bullying, and playing violent video games. Suicide and substance abuse numbers have been steadily rising and LGBTQ youth are feeling alone and persecuted for being true to themselves. Young adults are at the age when serious mental illnesses can occur and yet they are taught little to nothing about mental health.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 10%-20% of all children and adolescents have some type of mental illness, with 50% of these disorders occurring by the age of 14 years and 75% by the age of 20. The WHO further cites neuropsychiatric conditions as the worldwide leading cause of disability in young persons, and highlights that young people so-situated face challenges with both access to rudimentary basic services such as to education and health care as well as social challenges in terms of discrimination, isolation and stigma.
The internationally and constitutionally recognised right of access to information, combined with innovation and the mushrooming World Wide Web, means that there is an immense wealth of information available to young people that was never there before. With the world quite literally at their fingertips, young people can locate just about anything that is of interest to them. This has the ability to both help and hurt: young people with mental illnesses and mental disabilities or those with friends or family members so-situated can find out how to cope with these issues, stigma on their part can be dispelled through acquisition of knowledge and they can gain the ability to self-advocate or to advocate on behalf of others. The benefits are thus undeniable. The negative flipside, however, is that for all the valuable resources out there, there is also a great deal of false information on the internet, which can lead to poor decision-making on the part of the young person, confusion, despair and can perpetuate stigma on the part of the young person. It is unfortunate that such a font of information has to contain such harmful things, but due to virtually anyone being able to propagate a stance on the internet it is unavoidable.
Another positive surrounding present times is that there are a variety of networks of support available to young people online. With the ability to reach out and to communicate the difficulties one may be experiencing, it is possible to be provided with direct positive support from friends, family, professionals as well as lay strangers who have knowledge on such matters. This can be of immense help to young people affected by mental illnesses or mental disability, who often feel isolated and alone. This too, however, has a negative converse. In as much as there may be helping hands available online, there are also those who wilfully commit harm such as in instances of cyberbullying. According to a global online study conducted by YouGov (2015), it was found that over 60% of teens found cyberbullying worse than face to face bullying and that one fifth of teens involved in the survey had been cyberbullied at some stage. A broad spectrum of sources link cyberbullying to depression, self-harm and suicide among young people.
The internet and its associated attributes and risks is by far not the only change the landscape for young people has undergone. Phenomena such as HIV and AIDS, high rates of orphaning, modern-day political instability and current economic recession all affect such individuals. Conventions and constitutions may exist for their protection, but poor implementation and troubled circumstances render the living situations of young people untenable and this is difficult to cope with. While social issues such as these maybe much talked about, it does not appear that government is taking particular steps to address these social issues in the context of mental health specifically. This is extremely problematic because without proper psychosocial support traumatic lived experience can be transformed into something annihilating.
SAFMH is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) serving to uphold and protect the rights of people with mental illnesses, psychosocial disability and intellectual disability. Our activities for the month of October include the publication of a study on the topic at hand, a policy dialogue on the subject, the filming and publication of lived experiences among young service users, a social media campaign and the publication of press releases and opinion pieces on various aspects of the topic. It is our hope that our endeavours to raise awareness on these matters will serve as a call to action on the part of duty-bearers, parents, friends and young people themselves to embrace the positive aspects of modern technology while disregarding and obviating the negatives. It is a call to protect the mental health of young people and ensure that the negative ramifications of the harmful aspects of modern times are ameliorated. We ask that government embark on awareness campaigns to highlight the importance of young people’s mental health considering the changes to our society and for other roleplayers, including young people themselves, to become educated in internet safety, the need to ensure that their activity on the internet is not harmful to young people and to become sensitised to social issues and how they affect the mental health of young people.
For more information and enquiries contact:
Project Leader: Information and Awareness
South African Federation for Mental Health
011 781 1852
072 2577 938
The use of Marijuana has been a hotly contested topic for decades. Users of the substance have wanted the autonomy to take it on the basis of their right to privacy. On the 18th of September 2018, the Constitutional Court ruled on the matter, indicating that the use of Marijuana is legal within the home in South Africa and ordered that the law be amended to give effect to this ruling. While supportive of the realisation of the right to privacy, SAFMH wishes to issue a warning to users of the substance on the basis of the fact that research suggests it can have a negative effect on the mental health of a person. As such, we have released a press release on this subject. It appears below.
PRESS RELEASE: The need to ensure responsible marijuana use in view of its legalisation
On the 18th of September 2018, The Constitutional Court of the Republic of South Africa gave judgment legalising the private use of marijuana. The Court has given Parliament 24 months to correct what they deem to be defective legislation, specifically certain provisions of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act 140 of 1992 and the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act 101 of 1965. People ascribing to a specific religion, those in physical pain, as well as those who use the substance recreationally, will undoubtedly welcome the judgement. The South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH), however, wishes to issue a warning to those making use of the substance as it could induce symptoms of mental illness and indeed mental illness itself.
We wish to firmly indicate that no matter your standpoint on the issue of marijuana usage, the risks associated with the use of a mood and mind-altering substance cannot be discounted. If you are a person with a mental illness, are genetically predisposed to mental illness or have experienced paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, depression or other recognisable symptoms of mood beyond the normal range, it is essential that you contact a doctor to discuss the use of this product before simply using it. While SAFMH would never discount the value of an item that can ease pain or the practice of which constitutes a religious rite, the dangers associated with the use of marijuana simply cannot be ignored. SAFMH therefore feels that it is extremely important that current and potential users take note of the risks associated with marijuana usage.
The body of knowledge surrounding this subject is considerable. The Royal College of Psychiatrists (2017), for instance, describes how the use of marijuana can lead to the aforesaid symptoms, rendering a user twice as likely to develop a psychotic disorder such as Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder. They discuss the onset of both short and long-term psychosis as a consequence of marijuana use. They illustrate that just as people can feel positive effects such as relaxation, there are also glaring negatives which can be extremely dangerous for a person both physically and mentally. The College also highlights that, should a person make use of marijuana in their younger years, there is a growing risk of developing mental illnesses later on in life.
Fichter and Moss - writing for the Psychiatric Times (2017) - noted that the use of marijuana is common among mental health care users, who have claimed that it assists them in managing their symptoms. These authors discuss how mental health care users frequently use marijuana for illnesses such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety disorders, insomnia and schizophrenia. While this may be the case, we reiterate that given no absolute clarity, a person with the propensity for mental illness should not make the attempt to self-medicate.
The South African Federation for Mental Health is a non-governmental organisation serving to protect and uphold the rights of people with mental illness, psychosocial disability and intellectual disability. We are bound to note with concern the fact that evidence suggests a nexus between marijuana use and mental illness. Even in the face of the opinion of some that its use may be safe and may actually improve symptoms of mental illness, we cannot escape the idea of the chance that it may have adverse effects. As an advocacy body (not a medical organisation), we cannot pronounce on the biological effects of the substance. We would however not wish for any mental health care user to leave to chance the possibility that they may make themselves unwell. We would therefore strongly advise that mental health care users, those with a genetic predisposition for mental illness and those who have experienced adverse effects of the substance to consult a doctor before commencing with or continuing with its use.
The Government of the Republic of South Africa is enjoined to protect those within its borders. While there can be no legal injunction precluding those who may be vulnerable to potential negative effects of marijuana, there ought to be research undertaken as to its effects on people so-situated and education provided to all relevant parties. One vulnerable life tarnished or lost is too many. We do not want to extinguish some rights in the name of others. We simply cannot afford to take the chance.
Project Leader: Information and Awareness
South African Federation for Mental Health
011 781 1852
072 2577 938