Mental health patients protest for better services

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Mental illness is on the rise in Cape Town and health authorities are not doing enough to help those in need, said activists yesterday.

Persons with psychiatric disabilities yesterday protested in the city for more beds at health facilities. They lay with placards in beds placed in the city.

Patients with psychiatric disabilities took to Cape Town's streets to protest for better health care. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Patients with psychiatric disabilities took to Cape Town’s streets to protest for better health care. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

The Cape Consumer Advocacy Body (CCAB), which represents persons with psychiatric disabilities, and non-profit Cape Mental Health (CMH) organised the protest on St George’s Mall.

CCAB chairperson Oscar January said health authorities allocated only four percent of the annual health budget to mental illnesses. He said this was a problem as mental illness was on the rise.

“There’s a shortage of beds in the province. Sometimes clinics also run out of medication. I was once told that the clinic did not have my medication. I was given other medication that caused my to be jittery and sweat a lot,” said January.

CMH director Ingrid Daniels said “people with mental disabilities have very few resources available to them”.

“We know that 75% of people with mental illness have no access to services, especially in rural areas. There is a lack of beds at institutions that are meant to help. We are getting reports from clients who often do not get access to mental health facilities,” said Daniels.

“When they are admitted they are prematurely discharged because of pressure for beds. These beds are also needed for persons with substance-induced psychosis as a result of Tik (drug). We are seeing greater increase in people with depression and other mental health disorders.”

The Western Cape has four psychiatric hospitals; Valkenberg, Stikland, Lentegeur and Alexandra, which provides about 1,682 beds.

Tygerberg Hospital last week launched a new unit for adolescents with psychiatric disorders.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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