Mental health care must be amplified

Karen de Kock, MPL

DA Provincial Spokesperson of Health

To date, over R1 billion has already been spent on the new mental hospital and yet still the people of the Northern Cape remain largely without mental health care services. This includes the province having zero in-patient facilities for child and adolescent mental health services.

Statistics have pinpointed our country as having not only one of the highest suicide rates on the globe but also one of the highest teenage suicide rates in the world.

It is therefore very important that adolescents with early onset of mental illness should be detected and referred for multi-modal intervention as soon as possible. For these reasons, every teenager who suffers from a major psychiatric illness should have access to the best available diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative care.

The provincial health department, however, still fails to take mental health seriously. This is illustrated by the inability of the department to effectively implement the worldwide call for the integration of mental health services into the primary health care system, and of course its inability to get just one psychiatric hospital in the province up and running properly.

The Western Cape recently opened up a new psychiatry unit for adolescent patients at Tygerberg hospital for a unit cost of R9,7 million. In other words, our provincial department could by now already have opened up 100 such facilities, which is more than one for every hospital in the Northern Cape.

There can be no denying that the Northern Cape is desperately in need of additional properly functioning mental health facilities. Given that today is World Mental Health Day, the DA believes that the Northern Cape government must commit itself to drastically improving and expanding mental health care services across the province.