That South Africa has unusually high levels of inter-personal violence is clear from the country’s crime statistics and regular news reports about violent crime. The knock-on effects on the mental health of people in the country are, however, less easy to quantify. Thabo Molelekwa reports on local research showing an association between exposure to violence in childhood and mental health problems later in life.
Survivors of sexual assault and gender-based violence (GBV) often require mental healthcare services to deal with the psychological trauma, but these services are often not available in already overburdened shelters and safe houses where resources are limited. Sue Segar visited some shelters and spoke to experts about this unmet need for women and children.
Mental illnesses and the labels that go with these illnesses are often associated with stigma, which in turn influences health-seeking behaviour and adherence to treatment. Nthusang Lefafa looks at how South Africa’s National Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2023 – 2030 addresses stigma and asked some experts for their views.
Due to policy shifts and the increased availability of antipsychotic medication, mental healthcare has become decentralised, with most patients being treated in primary and district health facilities nearest to where they live. Only about ten percent of mental health patients are referred to psychiatric hospitals like Valkenberg in Cape Town. As part of Spotlight’s series on hospitals’ histories, Biénne Huisman visited Valkenberg Hospital and found in its fascinating past insight into how our approach to mental healthcare has changed over the years.
South Africa’s shortage of public sector psychologists and psychiatrists has made headlines several times in recent years. This has implications for the treatment of schizophrenia in the public sector. But, as Thabo Molelekwa reports, the picture in the private sector is also far from rosy, with several experts questioning the extent to which medical schemes currently provide cover for people with schizophrenia.
Professor Soraya Seedat is a distinguished professor and head of Stellenbosch University’s psychiatry department. She has penned several hundreds of peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on psychiatric disorders, with a focus on PTSD and anxiety, particularly among children and in resource-constrained settings. Biénne Huisman sat down with her to talk about her work, what drives her, and maintaining a work-life equilibrium.
In his Twitter biography, Dr Lebogang Phahladira describes himself as “a rookie clinician-researcher who keeps trying and trying”. This clearly paid off, as Phahladira earlier this month received a major global schizophrenia research award. As part of Spotlight’s coverage on mental health this month, Biénne Huisman spoke to him about growing up in rural Limpopo, his first impressions of city life, and the decision to specialise in schizophrenia.
South Africa’s long-awaited new National Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2023 – 2030 has been published. The previous policy framework expired in 2020. Thabo Molelekwa spoke to Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, and several mental health experts about the new policy framework.
South Africa’s National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs (2023 – 2028) was launched on Friday at Tlhabane Stadium in Rustenburg, North West as the world commemorated World TB Day. Nthusang Lefafa attended the event and spoke to experts and activists about the state of TB and HIV and the work that lies ahead with the new NSP.
2023 is set to be another tumultuous year for healthcare services, health policy, and governance in South Africa. We’ve picked 13 things to look out for this year arranged under three broad headings: leadership and governance, policy and legislation, and HIV, TB and the NSP.
Earlier this year, the annual Child Gauge indicated that child and adolescent mental health services in South Africa are in crisis – mostly due to inadequate resources. How to best provide such services within the constraints of our public healthcare system is an open question. Tiyese Jeranji visited the Michael Mapongwane Community Health Centre in Khayelitsha where a pilot project aimed at improving kids’ access to mental health services is showing encouraging results.
According to some estimates, over a third of tuberculosis (TB) patients have high levels of psychological distress and a quarter have an alcohol use disorder. Following an eye-opening project in KwaZulu-Natal, Atlantic Institute Tekano Fellow Amanda Fononda argues that a diagnosis of an illness (such as TB) should be accompanied by mental health screening for treatment readiness, adherence, and overall well-being.