Mental Health Awareness Month - October 2004 | Western Cape Government


Mental Health Awareness Month - October 2004

30 September 2004


The month of October yearly commemorates Mental Health awareness month with 10 October being celebrated as Mental Health Awareness day. This year's theme as set out by the World Federation for Mental Health emphasized the gap between the care of the mind and the body to achieve a complete state of well being and is therefore appropriately called "The relationship between physical and mental health : Co-occurring disorders".

Mental well being cannot be separated from physical well being. The World Health Organization describes health as " a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of a disease". The 5 areas of health or wellness therefore comprise of:

  • physical health
  • emotional health
  • social health
  • spiritual health
  • intellectual health

It is well known that medical illnesses create its own burden of mental illness and it is estimated that depression develops in:

  • 40%-60% of heart attack patients
  • 25% in cancer patients
  • 5%-10% of medical out patients
  • 10%- 14% of hospitalised patients.

People frequently seek help for physical ailments that may actually be symptoms of depression, such as allergic reactions and ulcers. This important link is often overlooked. Research has shown that depression is a brain disease affecting the structure of the brain. It is thus the same chemistry that affects both the brain and physical illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and others.

The other side of the coin is also true. Persons with Mental Illness have a high risk of developing physical illnesses and some of the factors that increase this risk are alcohol, smoking, drug use, poor diet due to poverty or illness. This also applies to developing infections such as TB and HIV/AIDS. Other factors results directly from treatment itself and can cause effects on the nervous system and metabolic function.


For many mental health care users the accessibility of medical care may be problematic. This may be due to a lack of services, health insurance coverage or financial resources. The other problem may be the result of non-compliance of prescribed psychiatric medication. On the other hand, not all medical clinicians are trained and equipped to treat the psychiatric and psychological symptoms of their patients effectively. The fact that these symptoms present in a "silent" manner other than the physical illnesses, means that it often go undetected in a large proportion of medical patients. The need for longer term treatment with anti-depressants and/or therapy often takes less of a priority than the physical treatment.


The following interventions can be suggested to prioritise mental health aspects of the persons with health problems:

  • More integrated approaches to health care is required. Fragmented approaches should be avoided to prevent illnesses not being treated.
  • Research has shown that promotitive events and public campaigns does not necessarily change any risk behavior but it should be continued approach through targeted programs and outreach service.
  • Training for service providers where clinicians are trained to follow practical guidelines. This will promote early detection of both physical and mental health problems and will ensure a comprehensive assessment of physical and mental health including history on substance and sexual abuse.
  • Vulnerable communities should be identified together with stakeholders responsible for these communities. The main aim would be to bring together concern clinicians , individuals and systems of care that can foster communication and collaboration.
  • Health care systems are often fragmented and uncoordinated which results inpatients and clinicians unaware of the resources available. Providers of mental health services should organize programs for their staff to support a holistic approach to any patient seen at the service.
  • Mental Health care users and their families can be supported by offering a programme including talks and discussions by mental health practitioners around life style issues.
  • Substance abuse and addiction are major problems for the person with mental illness. Services to deal with addiction needs to be incorporated with the every day care of the person. A programme in substance abuse may lead tio a significant reduction in this group.


With the above mentioned information in mind the Department of Health's mental health promotional events include the following:

Sports event ( 8 October 2004)

The Mental Health Programme, Department of Health will therefore be hosting a provincial sports day for mental health care users in collaboration with the Department of Sports, Culture and Recreation and other Mental Heath stakeholders such as the Associated Psychiatric hospitals, the Mental Health Information Centre, Kingdom Ministries, Red Cross (TLC). The aim of the day is to make the public aware of the important role a healthy body plays in relation to a healthy mind and to de-stigmatize the negative concept of mental illness. This event will be hosted on the 8 October 2004 at the PENTEC sports field from 9 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. This event is open to the public and Mental Health care users from all sectors ( including Intellectual Disability) will be attending the day. The program includes soccer, netball and volleyball games, physical exercises and a special program for children with disabilities. The program will start with a big walk for all. For more information contact Naseera Saliem on 483 4003.

Academic day - (17 September 2004)

In preparation for the mental health awareness month in October, the Mental Health Programme, in collaboration with the Associated Psychiatric Hospitals usually host an academic day for all mental health professionals. This event is used to support and equip staff to continue rendering a quality care service. This year's event took place on the 17 September 2004 at the Lentegeur Hospital Auditorium and was attended by approximately 100 Mental Health professionals from all over the province. The program included topics such as "Approaching trauma form a cranio-sacral perspective", Can visual art expression be helpful in stress management?". The highlight of the day was neck massages offer by the Western Cape Blind Association.

Contact: Marinda Roelofse
Tel: 021 483 5660

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