Community can help patients

2015-10-13 06:00

In light of World Mental Health Day on Saturday this past weekend, the provincial health department has promised high standards of care.

Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, Western Cape minister of health, says her department has identified that human rights, quality care and access to community living play a pivotal role for mental health patients.

The department is obligated to cultivate and promote “high standards of care and best practice in the delivery of mental health services,” says Mbombo.

In the past financial year the four provincial psychiatric hospitals, Lentegeur, Stikland, Alexandra and Valkenberg, and two sub-acute facilities, New Beginnings and William Slater, admitted 5944 patients and treated 40 409 outpatients.

Estelle Silence, a social worker manager at Lentegeur Hospital, says about 40% of the hospital’s patients are often abandoned by their families due to the negative societal stigma of mental conditions.

“With existing group home facilities operating at full capacity, there are fewer available resources to take in these vulnerable individuals, which places their dignity in jeopardy,” she says.

Silence adds public psychiatric facilities are not able to safeguard the human rights of individuals living with mental illnesses on their own, and therefore require the help and support of the community.

“Over the past years, community involvement has emerged as a central focus within the public healthcare delivery system, especially as a fundamental medium of care for mental health patients. In order to make a valuable difference in the lives of mental health patients and reduce stigma associated with mental illness, we require support from our communities,” says Silence.

An example of community participation is the Rose Parent Project, a community-based foster care programme providing living options for institutionalised psychiatric and intellectually disabled patients of Lentegeur Hospital.

Through the project more than 200 patients have been placed with over 100 families in 14 suburbs in Cape Town. There is no other hospital project of this magnitude that is managed by the community without any financial support or compensation.

“The Rose Parents are ordinary individuals living in the community with no special skills, but what they do have is the heart and capacity to care for others,” says Silence.

Mental health patients in the care of Rose Parents seldom require re-admission to Lentegeur Hospital and many have successfully rekindled relationships with their families.

“The Rose Parent Project is proof of the success of the public sector and the community partnering. Such partnerships are invaluable and citizens are urged to get involved in their communities to provide help where their capacity allows. The success this project has seen is a strong indicator that persons with mental illness do not always need to be institutionalised and that their best chance at recovery is being in a caring environment,” says Silence.

V

For more information on the Rose Parent Project email Silence on estelle.silence@westerncape.gov.za or call Vincent Weeder, a social work supervisor, on 021 370 1111

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