Minister Nomafrench Mbombo joins the celebrations of 130 years of Valkenberg
“Mental Health is everybody’s business”
On Wednesday, 19 October 2022, Minister Dr. Nomafrench Mbombo in collaboration with the Valkenberg Hospital Facility Board and hospital management celebrated 130 years of Valkenberg Hospital.
The psychiatric hospital turned 130 years during 2021 however, this significant milestone could not be celebrated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we know, the pandemic had a devastating effect on people, demonstrating the intrinsic link between health and the economy. People had to contend with heightened levels of anxiety and grief, an economic disaster and profound social and cultural dislocation. The impact of the pandemic exacerbated the existing drivers of poor mental health, particularly for the young (adolescents), women, people living in poverty and the elderly.
The Valkenberg Hospital opened its doors on 20 February 1891, when 36 psychiatric patients were transferred to the hospital from Robben Island. The island was previously used to admit psychiatric patients to alleviate the pressures at the Somerset Hospital. During the first 60 years of the hospital’s existence, it functioned mainly as a repository for the mentally ill to keep the patients away from society.
The Head of Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness, Dr Keith Cloete stated that “there is a history in mental illness, mental health, and mental wellbeing, to where we find ourselves today. COVID-19 played such a pivotal role in our strategic thinking, as we had to pause, reflect, and reset ourselves and realign our strategic direction of mental health, considering the social determinants of health.”
A lot has changed since the 1800s. However, the stigmatization still attached to mental health is still felt today. Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Nomafrench Mbombo stated that persons already diagnosed with mental illness should not be stigmatized, as it deters them from seeking help.
She further stated: “Mental Health can never be commemorated in a day nor a month. It is a constant reminder to everyone to check-in with their inner selves, to seek help and to educate others to do the same.”
Ms Charlyn Goliath, the CEO of Valkenberg hospital said that this commemoration, not only represents the importance of raising awareness around mental health and mental wellbeing, how COVID-19 served as a powerful tool in resetting ourselves but it prioritised the whole of society and a whole of government approach, in tackling these issues and moving forward, together.
Mr Raaghib Najjaar, chairperson of the Valkenberg Hospital Facility Board says: “over its 130-year history, Valkenberg Hospital has been subject to much change and its staff remains committed to providing excellent patient care and continues to support and advocate for the rights of mental health care users.”
Citizens of the Western Cape are urged to approach any of the facilities, closest to them, for more information or assistance.