Increase in number of young mental health patients

Wednesday, March 11, 2009
By: 
Gabi Khumalo

Sebokeng - There has been an increase in numbers of young people being admitted to mental hospitals in Gauteng, the Gauteng Health MEC Brian Hlongwa said on Wednesday.

He said 22 percent of the patients who were admitted in mental hospitals were younger than the age of 30.

Speaking at the launch of the Mental Health Awareness campaign at the Paul Tsotetsi Sports Ground in Sedibeng on Wednesday, Mr Hlongwa said in October alone, 3 954 patients in the Sedibeng District presented themselves in the clinics seeking mental health care, of these 658 were under the age of 18.

I"n November last year, 3608 patients presented themselves at our clinics, of these 557 were under the age of 18.

"In December, 2644 patients were seen at our clinics, of these 311 were under the age of 18."

The MEC said this was posing a challenge not only for government but society as a whole and noted that many of the symptoms were associated with the high incidence of drug and alcohol abuse among young people.

He said the department would intensify its efforts to inform the community of their role towards children with intellectual disabilities and challenged the management in his department to allocate more resources to servicing patients suffering from mental and intellectual disability.

He acknowledged that in their quest to reduce some communicable diseases, the department had not paid sufficient attention to mental health.

"The problem has escalated to the point where consequences will be too ghastly if we do not pour sufficient and appropriate resources to mental health programmes".

He said the department had decided to dedicate most of it campaigns towards creating awareness around mental health during Human Rights Month which is celebrated n the month of March.

Principal Clinical Psychologist Head at Sterkfontein Hospital Vusi Matshazi said people with mental disabilities were often isolated and not treated with respect.

"They are not different from us and deserve to be loved like normal children," Mr Matshazi said.

He stressed the need to inform the community about the disability and advise them on the course of action.

"A community with knowledge acts better and support each other, health providers should implement programmes in communities on how to deal with intellectual disability," he said.

Mr Matshiza further advised parents to immediately take their children for assessment if they felt that their progress was slower than other children of their age.

He also warned pregnant women not to drink alcohol as it increases the chances of giving birth to a child with disability.