Mental health headache
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".