Strengthening community relationships is key to improving mental health
Strengthening community relationships is key to improving mental health and wellbeing for residents
On the 25th of October, Western Cape Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, hosted a multi-stakeholder mental health and wellbeing engagement with community members at the Western Cape College of Nurses.
Almost 200 residents, students, officials from various Departments and members of community organisations joined the event. During the proceedings, officials were able to detail the current state of mental health in the province, how the healthcare system responds to it and how other stakeholders have a role in improving these outcomes.
Ever since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Western Cape has been experiencing an increased prevalence of mental health cases and admissions. This has been further worsened exacerbated by increased unemployment, substance abuse and safety concern in our communities. For an example, last year we recorded 26 600 acute adult mental health admissions at our facilities and is 2 600 more than in 2021. Of these cases last year, 6 700 were substance-related psychiatric admissions.
While mental health services are incorporated into our facilities’ operational budgets, we made an additional R72.4 million allocation in 2023/24 towards strengthening these services. This included:
- Increasing the number of mental health beds at George Hospital and Lentegeur Hospital;
- Strengthening child and adolescent, and psychogeriatric mental health services;
- Strengthening mental health services at primary health care level; and
- Ensuring equitable funding of non-profit organisations in both the metro and rural districts.
However, poor mental health is not only a result of an illness or a disorder; anyone can experience it if one’s environment does not allow for one’s wellbeing. This emphasises the need for us to address the upstream factors that affect an individual, which is why engaging communities every step of the way is crucial to this end.
Highlighting the role government plays in supporting communities, Western Cape Minister of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez added that: "Mental health is everyone's business and it is an important component to one's overall wellbeing. The effective rendering of services requires a multi-disciplined approach. Collaborations are important when it comes to raising awareness and implementing interventions, as this workshop has proven. The Western Cape Department of Social Development has a close relationship with the Department of Health and Wellness in this regard. DSD also works with other government departments, the NPO sector, and community structures."
Speaking to the effects crime has on one’s wellbeing, Western Cape Minister of Police Oversight and Community Safety, Reagen Allen said: “Being of healthy mind, body and spirit is of utmost importance for us as individuals to function optimally. The various societal issues that we have to contend with makes this quite challenging. It is vital that we support one another as we navigate through life. The daily violence we encounter has to come to an immediate end if we are to heal fully from all the trauma. This will go a long way in living an optimised and dignified life.”
Minister Dr Nomafrench Mbombo concluded the event by saying: “Health is truly everyone’s business. Even though the health system plays an essential role in mental health outcomes, this engagement with the community proved that one’s mental wellbeing is dependent various physical, mental and social health factors. As such, it highlights the need for us to further strengthen whole-of-government and whole-of society approaches going forward. We need to continue forming strategic relationships with all stakeholders in order for our interventions to be effective and change the lives of residents.”