Mental health services in the Western Cape
What is mental illness?
Mental illness or mental disorder includes a wide range of conditions with different symptoms that affect the way a person thinks, feels or behaves. These are generally characterised by a combination of abnormal thoughts, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others. Most mental health disorders can be successfully treated if the correct advice, help and treatment is provided.
Warning signs for mental illness
- Delusions or hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there)
- Strong feelings of anger
- Extremely high and low moods
- Long-lasting sadness or irritability
- Excessive fear, worry or anxiety
- Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol
- Social withdrawal
Apart from the difficulties arising directly from their mental illness, people who live with mental illnesses may also face other obstacles, which could include:
- Difficulties in obtaining the right diagnosis and treatment, as these illnesses are poorly recognised and resources for mental healthcare have been historically underfunded.
- Difficulties in being accepted in society due to stigmatisation.
- Difficulties in finding work due either to the symptoms related to the condition which may make it difficult to work or due to negative and unfounded perceptions.
- Difficulties in finding accommodation.
- Difficulties in relating to others who may not understand how the illness affects them.
- Difficulties in having these various issues addressed due to the fundamentally disempowering nature of society's response to people living with mental illness.
Despite all of this, most people who experience mental illness will, if given the right support, be able to recover sufficiently to be able to live, work, learn and participate fully in their communities.
View the Signs of Mental Illness.
Mental healthcare in the Western Cape
The Department of Health addresses the growing need for care of patients with mental illness by improving access to treatment and counselling at primary healthcare level.
Several health facilities in the province make provision for the admission of people with mental impairments. This is in line with the Mental Healthcare Act 17 of 2002.
These are the different hospitals in the Western Cape that provide mental health services:
- Tygerberg Hospital
- Groote Schuur Hospital
- Alexandra Hospital
- Lentegeur Hospital
- Stikland Hospital and New Beginnings which is supported by Stikland Hospital
- Valkenberg Hospital
The Mental Health Review Board provides added support to these mental health facilities. These hospitals give access to the full package of psychiatric hospital services to the citizens of the Western Cape.
As part of the Healthcare 2030 vision, mental health services in the province will be integrated into community-based, primary healthcare, and acute hospital platforms and service delivery. Only those services requiring a more specialised level of intervention and treatment will be treated within a specialist hospital.
Treatment for mental health issues is handled professionally and in a caring environment. It’s important to treat mental health like any other health issue you or your loved one may have, by:
- Finding professional guidance and assistance, and
- Seeking advice and support from support groups and receiving the correct treatment to manage your mental wellbeing.
Mental health community outreach in the Western Cape
Various outreach initiatives are done together with psychiatric hospitals in the Western Cape. These are when mental health professionals, psychiatrists, psychiatry registrars and psychologists provide care at clinics, Regional, District Hospitals and Community Health Centres. Also, the Primary Healthcare (PHC) service, offers mental health services where they:
- Identify, diagnose and treat common mental health conditions, and
- Organise the referral of complicated mental health problems to more appropriate levels of mental health care.
If you or someone you know lives with a mental health condition, you can go to your local clinic where a health worker will assess you and offer initial treatment.
In the Metro, Southern Cape Karoo and West Coast Winelands regions, your community health worker may refer an individual for more specialised care offered by a mental health (psychiatric) nurse, when necessary.
Treatment may include medication as well as short-term individual or group counselling and support. The mental health nurse may consult with the psychologist or psychiatrist (or other members of the mental health team) when additional expertise is needed. If necessary, the mental health nurse may set up an appointment with one of these specialists for further assessment.