Community Involvement Needed To Improve Mental Health Care In Western Cape
World Mental Health Day Restoring the Dignity in Mental Health
In light of World Mental Health Day, acknowledged annually on 10 October, the Western Cape Minister of Health, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo highlights that the Western Cape Government Health has identified that human rights, aspects of quality care, and access to community living, play a pivotal role in the development and wellbeing of all mental health clients.
“In order to sustain dignity in mental health, one of the key legislative imperatives of the Western Cape Government Health, Healthcare 2030: The Road to Wellness, mandates the cultivation and promotion of high standards of care and best practice in the delivery of mental health services,” says Mbombo.
During the 2014/15 financial year the four psychiatric hospitals under the management of the Western Cape Government Health, namely Lentegeur, Stikland, Alexandra and Valkenberg and two sub-acute, facilities New Beginnings and William Slater, collectively admitted 5 944 patients and attended to 40 409 patients at outpatient departments.
Known as the ‘stepchildren’ of society, many individuals living with mental illnesses are often discriminated against, marginalised and abandoned by their family members or caregivers because of the stigma surrounding mental conditions. This rejection adversely impacts a mental health client’s self- respect, self-worth and dignity of life.
According to Estelle Silence, Social Worker Manager at Lentegeur Hospital, approximately 40 percent of the facility’s clients are often abandoned by their families. “With existing group home facilities operating at full capacity, each with long waiting lists of their own, there are less available resources to take in these vulnerable individuals, which places their dignity in jeopardy,” she says.
Silence adds that public psychiatric facilities are not able to safeguard the human rights of individuals living with mental illnesses on their own, and therefore require the assistance and support of the community. “Over the past years, community involvement has emerged as a central focus within the public healthcare delivery system, especially as a fundamental medium of care for mental health clients. 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,” says Silence.
A prime example of community participation is the Rose Parent Project, a community-based foster care programme providing living options for institutionalised psychiatric and intellectually disabled clients of Lentegeur Hospital.
The Lentegeur Hospital Rose Parent Project has been in existence for more than 27 years. To date, more than 200 patients have been placed with over 100 families in 14 suburbs around Cape Town. There is no other hospital project of this magnitude that is managed by the community and sustained without any financial support or compensation.
“The Rose Parents are ordinary individuals living in the community with no special skills, but what they do have is the heart and capacity to care for others. They are not remunerated for their services and hence do not receive any form of compensation for the great work they do,” says Silence.
Mental health clients in the care of the Rose Parents seldom require re-admission to Lentegeur Hospital and many have successfully rekindled relationships with their family members.
“The Rose Parent Project is proof of the success of the public sector and the community partnering to take care of those in need. Such partnerships are invaluable and citizens in the Western Cape are urged to get involved in their communities to provide assistance where their capacity allows. The success this project has seen is a strong indicator that persons with mental illness do not always need to be institutionalised and that their best chance at recovery is being in a caring environment,” concludes Silence.
For more information on the Rose Parent Project and details on how to become a Parent please contact Estelle Silence, Social Worker Manager at Lentegeur Hospital via email: Estelle.Silence@westerncape.gov.za or Vincent Weeder, Social Work Supervisor on telephone: 021 370 1111.
Communications Officer: General Specialists Directorate
Western Cape Government: Department of Health
Landline: 021 918 1671
Mobile: 083 644 3383