Health system neglects the mentally ill‚ say specialists
Tanya Farber | 2017-02-03 13:36:24.0
The SAPC conveyed their condolences to the family and friends of the patients who died after having been moved from Life Esidimeni hospital. File photo.
Image by: iStock
Mental illness should be a national priority‚ with a much greater budget.
So say a large group of the country’s mental health practitioners who have expressed outrage at the death of at least 94 mentally ill patients sent into the arms of unregistered NGOs to die.
The South African Psychoanalytic Confederation (SAPC)‚ which represents more than 500 mental health practitioners‚ conveyed their condolences to the family and friends of the patients who died after having been moved from Life Esidimeni hospital by the Gauteng health department.
According to Section27‚ People’s Health Movement and other public health officials‚ this was done contrary to the advice‚ offers of support‚ legal action and entreaties from experts‚ activists and the families of the patients.
Dain Peters‚ SAPC chair‚ said: “This tragedy exposes the fatal neglect of individuals by the mental health system. It also highlights the neglect of mental healthcare by the Health System as a whole. Mental health care is not prioritised or funded in line with the prevalence of mental health issues in South Africa.”
He said that “this tragic incident in Gauteng raises questions about how widespread such neglect is‚ especially in rural communities. Mental health needs to be made a national priority‚ especially regarding people suffering from severe mental illness who are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. This means not only an increase in budget allocated to the mental health sector but also a willingness by government to engage with mental health professionals in the formulation and implementation of effective policies as well as the deployment of sufficient mental health practitioners in the public health sector.”
Peters added there are many international precedents showing the benefits of the deinstitutionalisation of mental health patients‚ but that the development of community-based services does needed to be “responsibly mapped out and properly resourced”.
“This was not done and so this tragedy ensued.”