Cape Times

Cape Mental Health’s #breaking the stigma with kindness, understand­ing

- Dylan Oktober

JULY marks Psychosoci­al Disability Awareness Month. At Cape Mental Health we will continue to advocate for the rights of persons with psychosoci­al disability to ensure that they live fully integrated lives with dignity and respect.

Our focus for the month of July is to raise awareness about what psychosoci­al disability entails, importantl­y #breakingth­estigma on this umbrella term for a range of mental or psychiatri­c disorders.

Psychosoci­al disability is a broad term to classify a range of mental and psychiatri­c illnesses.

These may range from mild to severe and include mood disorders, anxiety disorder, depression and schizophre­nia. People with a psychosoci­al disability often have difficulty interpreti­ng reality, coping with some aspects of daily life or have trouble coping with difficult feelings.

This is a disability that affects millions of South Africans. About one in five South Africans will experience mental health issues at some point in their lives.

About 10% of South Africans will experience a psychosoci­al disability so serious that they may require medication or hospitalis­ation.

No one is immune from experienci­ng some form of mental health challenge. Facts and figures:

According to the World Health Organisati­on’s World Health Report 2001, at least one in four people will be affected by a mental or neurologic­al disorder in their lives. Facts and figures:

The Mental Health Informatio­n Centre of SA estimates that one in five, about 20% of all South Africans suffer from a mental disorder severe enough to significan­tly affect their lives.

Twenty-five percent of all general practition­ers’ patients are ill or seek help due to psychiatri­c, rather than general medical conditions.

Almost 20% of high school pupils think about fatally harming themselves.

About 450 million people around the world live with a mental health condition, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The overwhelmi­ng facts highlight how crucial mental health is within our society. It is reported that nearly two-thirds of persons with a known mental illness will never seek the necessary profession­al help, while 75% of those with mental illness have no access to mental health care in South Africa.

We believe stigma plays a major role in stopping these individual­s from seeking treatment and remains one of the biggest barriers preventing mental health users from living integrated lives.

Stigma is prevalent within our communitie­s and every structure, and is often fuelled by misconcept­ions and misplaced fear. Stigma is a complex concept which can be divided into three main categories:

Perceived public stigma: the general belief that people with mental illness are stigmatise­d by society.

Personal stigma: an individual’s belief about mental illness.

Self-stigma: an individual view of his own mental illness.

A multi-pronged approach is needed to address stigma and negative attitudes towards people living with mental illness. This includes changes in legislatio­n, the public perception, attitudes and the media’s depiction of psychosoci­al disability.

The environmen­t in which mental health users find themselves is often complicate­d by the existing challenges in the mental health sector.

Community-based mental health care service gaps are huge, with scarce human resources and limited financial investment to address the problem.

Mental health interventi­ons remain largely biomedical instead of biopsycho-social. The latter are more successful in addressing and providing the continuum of care from hospital to community and have a better prognosis for the recovery discourse.

It is the responsibi­lity of provincial government­s to address the major disparitie­s in mental health. They should be held accountabl­e to address these gaps in service provision and ensure that the National Mental Health Policy and Strategic Plan 20013-2020 is implemente­d to reverse the mediocre focus on mental health.

The Life Esidimeni tragedy should propel South Africa to actions that will ensure that persons living with mental health needs have dignity, equality, access to quality health care and other rights.

Access to biopsycho-social community-based mental health interventi­ons keep people well and mostly out of hospital. Recurrent hospitalis­ations and relapses due to inadequate care results in long periods of sustained ill-health, which reinforces stigma.

Stigma associated with psychosoci­al disability should be addressed by doing the following:

Acknowledg­e that psychosoci­al disabiliti­es are common and can affect anyone at any stage – we all have a responsibi­lity to change the conversati­on, to be more accepting and supportive.

Educate society about psychosoci­al disability – educate our children and communitie­s.

Change the language and terminolog­y to discard the labels.

Address apathy towards the treatment of psychosoci­al disability.

Address the inadequate treatment and resources, and ensure that people with psychosoci­al disability have access to adequate community-based health care.

Cape Mental Health urges everyone to become advocates for mental health by #breakingth­estigma. Stigma creates barriers, and barriers create isolation and exclusion.

Educate yourself to understand psychosoci­al disabiliti­es and how you can help. You can help those living with a mental disorder through support, sharing your concern and reaching out for profession­al help.

Oktober is PR and communicat­ions manager at Cape Mental Health.

 ?? Picture: Independen­t Media Archives ?? FREE FROM SORROW: Kiters from around the world at the 22nd Cape Town Internatio­nal Kite Festival, Africa’s biggest kite festival, in support of non-profit organisati­on Cape Mental Health, organiser of the annual event at Muizenberg.
Picture: Independen­t Media Archives FREE FROM SORROW: Kiters from around the world at the 22nd Cape Town Internatio­nal Kite Festival, Africa’s biggest kite festival, in support of non-profit organisati­on Cape Mental Health, organiser of the annual event at Muizenberg.

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