Breaking the stigma on mental health

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Gauteng Health MEC, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, says society must work together to ensure that mental health rights become human rights and enjoy full protection.

She addressed about 300 delegates at the Mental Health Summit held at Gallagher Estate in Midrand this week. The summit was held under the theme ‘Together promoting mental health rights: Break the stigma, break the silence’.

The summit was a platform to explore ways of ensuring the commitment and involvement of all society to advocate for and protect the rights of mental health care users.

The summit took stock of what happened during and after the Gauteng Mental Health Marathon Project, which resulted in the death of more than 140 patients, the progress made in transforming mental health care services and measures put in place to deal with the challenges still faced by the sector.

MEC Ramokgopa said there is a need to strengthen relationships between service providers and users, as well as to ensure that patients are treated with dignity and that their right to privacy is upheld.

“We also need to [move towards] a future [where we] will make sure that a tragedy such as Life Esidimeni will never happen again,” said MEC Ramokgopa.

According to the MEC, in South Africa, about 16. 5% of the population have mental health issues. Gauteng has 72 hours observation services for patients, who may have a mental illness in general hospitals across the province. There are also designated mental health beds in hospitals.

MEC Ramokgopa urged delegates to use the summit as a spring board to ensure that mental health care services become part of mainstream health services.

“Mental health is everyone’s business. We have strengthened the mental health review boards and we are at a point of ensuring that all primary health care centres offer initial treatment on mental services and are able to refer patients to the next level of care.

“Mental illness is a behavioural, mental, or emotional disorder that interferes with the person’s lifestyle. However, with early diagnosis, care, treatment and rehabilitation, most people can recover from the illness,” said the MEC. - SAnews.gov.za

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