Mental illnesses neglected by government

CAPE TOWN - Mental illnesses account for the third highest burden of disease in South Africa.

Yet, only about 4% of the national health budget goes towards mental health services as a result, psychiatric patients say they don&39;t get the care they require.

Currently, general state hospitals are ill-equipped to deal with emergency mental health problems.

Patients are discharged before they are fully treated, with traumatic results for both the patient and their family.

Michael Hattingh, speaking for the Cape Consumer Advocacy Body, said: “The situation is a tough one because there really isn’t much of a budget, 4 percent of the budget.

"This doesn’t make sense because mental health is the third highest contributor to the burden of disease.”

To mark Psychiatric Disability Awareness Month, representatives from advocacy groups gathered in Cape Town to protest the lack of facilities.

Mental health patients are protesting against neglect in non-psychiatric hospitals, they are sleeping on chairs and on the floor in protest.

Malleeka Mokallik, of the Cape Mental Health advocacy group said, “The main focus point is the lack of beds. Our service users have to wait a long time to access the beds.”

Mokallik said government needed to do a lot more to provide for these patients. She said she felt more money needed to be allocated to the mental health budget.

“We are calling on government to provide more hospitals, provide more trained staff who can deal with patients with mental health and provide them with adequate care.” said Mokallik

Meanwhile, the Western Cape Health Department  said the perceived shortage affected only a small percentage of people with mental health problems.