INTERVIEW: Dr Lebogang Phahladira on his journey from studying by candlelight to winning a major schizophrenia research award

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.

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Women in health: “Everything ends up in the health system,” says psychiatrist Lesley Robertson

Passionate about community psychiatry, Professor Lesley Robertson spent the bulk of her career as a psychiatrist pushing for mental health reform in South Africa. Now, as head of the community psychiatry clinical unit at Sedibeng District Health Service, she is still pushing – among others to improve the essential medicines lists for psychiatric medicines and shore up community-based networks of churches, community groups, and assisted living homes as soft landings for people in need. Ufrieda Ho spoke to her as part of Spotlight’s Women in Health series.

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Intimate partner violence in SA – is it getting worse and how do we tackle it?

A third or even up to half of women and girls in South Africa aged 15 and older have either experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence (IPV). Some experts say South Africa almost has a perfect storm of IPV drivers. Elsabé Brits unpacks some of the recent findings published in a landmark Lancet Psychiatry Commission on interpersonal violence and asks experts how we can address this in South Africa.

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Ten years later: Reflecting on the successes and challenges at Khayelitsha Hospital

This month, the Khayelitsha District Hospital will celebrate ten years since it opened its doors. Tiyese Jeranji visited the hospital and spoke to the CEO, some staff members, patients, and health stakeholders about the services the hospital provides, its successes and continuing challenges.

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In-depth: Is government ready to invest in mental health?

Mental health does not have its own ring-fenced budget and given huge inefficiencies in our mental health spending, we need to be strategic on where and how we spend the little we have. Alicestine October unpacks what a new government-commissioned mental health investment case framework can mean for access to equitable and quality mental health services in the country. 

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In-depth: How are depression and bipolar disorder treated in the public sector?

It is estimated that “one in ten adults living in South Africa will have experienced major clinical depression at some point in their life but only 25% have sought treatment and care for their mental conditions, such as depression”. Although these estimates are based on the South African Stress and Health (SASH) study, last done in 2009, subsequent studies have stressed the significant challenge of reducing this treatment gap in the country. Elri Voigt asks how conditions like major depression and bipolar disorder are diagnosed and treated in the public sector in South Africa.

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Mental Health: Grief, loss – we are all traumatised, says psychiatrist on the COVID-19 frontlines

Working with Groote Schuur Hospital’s frontline COVID team, Psychiatry Professor Jackie Hoare help manage the mental health of patients admitted with severe COVID pneumonia and also the mental health needs of fellow healthcare workers. Bienne Huisman caught up with her to talk about providing counselling at the bedside of COVID patients and how we deal with the complexities of grief in a time of COVID-19.

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In-depth: SA’s mental health policy has lapsed, what happens next?

Once widely hailed, South Africa’s Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2013 – 2020 lapsed last year, with mixed reviews on its implementation from mental healthcare stakeholders. The National Department of Health now says the revised and updated Policy Framework and Plan will be in place in the next financial year. Tiyese Jeranji spoke to experts and activists about what the lapsed policy framework achieved and what to improve.

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Six years after Life Esidimeni: Deinstitutionalisation at risk as NGOs are paid late

Six years after the Life Esidimeni tragedy, an inquest into the circumstances under which more than a thousand psychiatric patients were moved into the care of NGOs and about 144 died, is set to start in the North Gauteng High Court in July. Meanwhile, some mental health NGOs and activists maintain that the Gauteng Department of Health is still short-changing mental health services. Thabo Molelekwa reports.

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