Mental health centre learns from Life Esidemeni tragedy


Mental health centre learns from Life Esidemeni tragedy

Farren Collins | 2017-03-29 13:23:29.0

Life Esidimeni. File photo

Image by: Google Photo

After the tragedy of Life Esidemeni‚ in which more than 100 mentally ill patients died‚ an increased focus on mental health has led to developments in patient care.

Local researchers at the Alan J Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health have developed an integrated model for mental healthcare for South Africa.

The South African mental healthcare community has also decided to focus on depression for World Health Day next week as a result.

The Programme for Improving Mental Health Care (PRIME) within the Alan J Flisher Centre has formulated a plan that integrates treatment for depression and standard care for chronic physical conditions.

“We piloted an integrated chronic disease model‚ where all patients are seen at one point‚” said principal researcher for PRIME Inge Petersen.

“We screened patients with HIV‚ diabetes‚ hypertension and other chronic diseases together‚ to help reduce stigma and because of the high rate of morbidity that exists in patients with chronic illness.”

From its pilot site in the North West‚ the programme referred over 2‚000 patients‚ who would normally not have been diagnosed‚ for counselling.

The collaborative care approach ensured that people received ongoing care in community and health facilities‚ while being able to access specialist services and inpatient care.

PRIME spokesperson Maggie Marx said that‚ as in the case of the Life Esidemini patients‚ de-institutionalisation was acceptable practice in many first world countries‚ as long as the NGOs and care facilities were properly equipped.

“The plan that PRIME has developed has shown that it is in essence possible‚ not only in South Africa‚ but in other low to middle-income countries‚ by integrating mental healthcare into primary care services‚” she said.

“By doing that‚ you can help a lot more people without having to institutionalise them.”

Petersen said that PRIME had also received funding from the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in the US to scale up‚ and would be opening new sites in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

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