Mental aid just down the street

2016-05-12 06:00
 Sacap has come on board with Mphunga to bring mental services closer  PHOTOs: Mandla Mahashe

Sacap has come on board with Mphunga to bring mental services closer PHOTOs: Mandla Mahashe

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Andries Banetsi Mphunga, the UWC psychology graduate and Khayelitsha resident has partnered with the South African College of Applied Psychology to bring meaningful services to patients in the area.

Mphunga is credited with bringing the first ever mobile clinic dedicated to mental health services in South Africa.

Dubbed the Cara-cara, he uses his customised combi as consulting and counselling rooms, targeting mostly the young.

Mphunga is a registered counsellor and is the founder of the Township Parents and Children’s Centre, a community resource to provide individuals and families experiencing mental challenges with help.

The service is free and is expected to alleviate some of the stigma associated with visiting a psychologist at a clinic.

Mphunga said he has spent all his savings on the vehicle with the hope of catering for residents in the grip substance abuse, gangsterism and other social ills such as crime, domestic and sexual violence.

“In our areas it is hard for people to seek psychological help because of the stigma and the lack of financial ability.

“Mental illness is still stigmatised in the townships. It’s associated with being crazy or weak.

We’ve made the kombi colourful to make it attractive even to young children.

We want everyone in our community to view mental illness as something normal that can affect anyone from any background,” said Mphunga.

“I want to bring psychology here, and hopefully inspire other young people to become psychologists so that they too may change circumstances in their own community,”

Sacap Chief Executive Lance Kats said that the clinic was the first project the college’s newly established foundation has invested in.

“The reality is that mental health services are not available where the need is greatest. So a project like this, where psychologists work on the ground and go to where people are is one of the projects we are looking for.

We hope to use the mobile clinic to place some of our graduates where they can get further training,” he said.

Mphunga said he would also use the clinic to mentor other psychology students who were interested in doing community work.

Apart from mental health services being out of reach in poorer communities, Mphunga said the stigma attached when visiting a psychologist held many young people back from accessing this crucial service.

In an environment fraught with trauma and abuse, seeking clinical help during life’s struggles was often impossible due to the scarcity of mental health resources and the cost attached, particularly for the young and unemployed. The clinic’s aim was to break down these barriers to treatment and normalise seeking professional help in tough and shocking times.

Katz said mental well-being was the springboard for learning, thinking and communication skills, as well as for emotional growth, resilience and self-esteem.

We hope to use the mobile clinic to place some of our graduates where they can get further training,” he said.

For more information on the services rendered by the Township and Childrens Centre, contact Mphunga at: 073 722 7268 and ask for Caracara Services.

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