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Western Cape dedicated to improving access to Mental Health Services

10 October 2016

During the 2015/16 financial year, the Western Cape Government Health Department admitted over 6 300 mental health patients and attended to 43 921 cases at outpatient departments.

These statistics are drawn from the four psychiatric hospitals under the management of the provincial government - Lentegeur, Stikland, Alexandra and Valkenberg – as well as two sub-acute facilities - New Beginnings and William Slater.

In commemoration of World Mental Health Day, acknowledged annually on 10 October, Western Cape Minister of Health, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, highlights that although challenged by stretched budgets, the Department remains committed to strengthening acute, inpatient and outpatient services, alongside district and community based mental health services.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has set the following theme for 2016: ‘Dignity in Mental Health — Psychological & Mental Health First Aid for All’. In line with this, the province is focusing on reducing the stigma, isolation and discrimination that continues to burden individuals with mental health conditions, their families and carers.

According to Mbombo, the theme reiterates the important role communities play in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness. “De-institutionalising mental health clients and reintegrating them into supportive and accepting communities will greatly assist us in reducing psychiatric service pressures. Community involvement is therefore a fundamental medium of care for mental health users. In order to make a valuable difference in the lives of mental health clients and reduce stigma associated with mental illness, we require support from our communities,” emphasises Mbombo.

She highlights that providing psychological and mental health first aid is a gesture of care shown towards a fellow human being who may need emotional support.  This is especially needed by individuals who may be developing a mental health problem, are experiencing the worsening of an existing mental health problem, or find themselves in a mental health crisis.

“With increased levels of criminal activities and social factors prevalent in South Africa, many individuals are often affected by an emergency, disaster or traumatic event. Psychological and mental health first aid aims to reduce the initial distress, meet current needs, promote flexible coping and encourage adjustment and reduce the risk of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD).

“Basic mental health first aid skills can be developed by anyone in the community and should form part of an individual’s duty in showing a degree of care to others in their community, just as they would wish to be cared for,” explains Mbombo.

Mbombo explains that the acute adult psychiatric services remain under significant pressure as the year-on-year number of patients accessing the mental health service platform increases. This is evident in the 2014/15 financial year report, which shows that these facilities admitted 5 944 patients and attended to 40 409 patients at outpatient departments.

“The Western Cape Government Health has instituted strategies to retain mental health patients in care by improving outpatient services. This approach sees more frequent appointments post discharge and a streamlined transition from hospital to clinic by implementing increased discharge support that ensures mental health patients return for their follow up appointments,” says Mbombo.

In addition, the Primary Healthcare (PHC) service also offers mental health services to individuals who require it.  Common mental health conditions are identified, diagnosed and treated. Where more complicated mental health problems exist, a referral is arranged and the patient is able to receive more appropriate levels of mental health care.

“Western Cape Government Health is addressing the growing need for the care of patients with mental illnesses by improving access to treatment and counselling at a primary health care level in line with the Mental Health Care Act 17 of 2002. The Department has also implemented a policy decision to build fit for purpose psychiatric wards at all large District hospitals as well as the Regional hospital units. However, a collective approach whereby the community extends care and support to individuals with mental health conditions, their families and carers can most certainly ease the burden with immediate effect,” concludes Mbombo. 

Media Enquiries: 

Bianca Carls
Communications Officer: General Specialists Directorate
Western Cape Government: Department of Health
Landline:    021 918 1671
Mobile:       083 644 3383
Email:         bianca.carls@westerncape.gov.za