Mental health issues gain momentum

Gauteng Department of Health’s member of the executive council, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa emphasised the need for all to ensure that mental health rights become human rights and are protected.

Ramokgopa addressed about 300 delegates at the Mental Health Summit held recently at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand.The summit was held under the theme, ‘Together Promoting Mental Health Rights: Break the Stigma, Break the Silence’.

“We need to strengthen relationships between service providers and users as well as ensuring that users are treated with dignity, that their right to privacy is upheld and we need to change to a future that will make sure that a tragedy such as Life Esidimeni Hospital will never happen again,” said Ramokgopa.

The summit explored ways of ensuring commitment and involvement of all stakeholders in advocating and protecting the rights of mental health care users.

The four focus areas of the summit were:

  • Mental health development agenda
  • Mental health in the workplace
  • The youth and lessons learnt.

Ramokgopa pleaded with stakeholders to be at the forefront of mental health issues as development partners and urged all stakeholders to work together to break the silence and the stigma.

“In South Africa 16, 5 per cent of the population have mental health problems, while in the UK, the figure is 25 per cent, which is one in four people who suffer from mental illness. Gauteng has 72-hour observation services for patients who may have a mental illness in general hospitals across the province. We also have designated mental health beds for users,” added Ramokgopa.

The summit took stock of what happened during the post-Gauteng Mental Health Marathon project, which resulted in the deaths of more than 100 patients and the progress made in transforming mental health care services and the measures put in place to deal with the challenges still faced by the mental health sector.

“Mental illness is a behavioural, mental, or emotional disorder that interferes with the person’s lifestyle. However, with early diagnosis, care, treatment and rehabilitation most people can recover from the illness.”