Mental health headache

11 July 2013 - 02:40 By NASHIRA DAVIDS
To mark Psychiatric Disability Awareness Month, Cape Mental Health and the Cape Consumer Advocacy Body picketed in St Georges Mall, Cape Town, to protest the lack of adequate resources
To mark Psychiatric Disability Awareness Month, Cape Mental Health and the Cape Consumer Advocacy Body picketed in St Georges Mall, Cape Town, to protest the lack of adequate resources
Image: HALDEN KROG

This is Psychiatric Disability Awareness month and it brings to the fore the issue of mental illness, the third-highest burden of disease in South Africa.

But, says a Cape Town NGO and advocacy group, only 4% of the national health budget goes to mental health services.

The World Health Organisation estimates that, in seven years, depression will be the second-most-common cause of disability.

Yesterday, Cape Mental Health and the Cape Consumer Advocacy Body staged a protest to call for adequate mental health services. To highlight the shortage of beds in hospitals, they cluttered a busy walkway in the city centre with hospital beds during lunch hour.

One protestor held a poster which read: "I sat on a chair for 72 hours. [I was] Locked up all night.

"Many seriously ill, psychotic or suicidal service-users have had to wait before being admitted to hospital because of the shortage of beds," said Cape Mental Health chairman, Oscar January.

A 2008 Medical Research Council study found that 41% of those admitted to Western Cape psychiatric wards had a "substance-induced psychotic disorder".

About 31% were admitted for schizophrenia and 12% for mood disorders. Gadija Koopman, the deputy director of Cape Mental Health, said drug-induced psychosis was preventable.

"If the problem of drug abuse were addressed, we would not have that 41% eating away at limited hospital resources," said Koopman.

The two organisations cited studies in which it was estimated one in six people will develop a mental illness or psychiatric disability, with "bipolar mood disorders, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety some of the most common".

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