Mental health and the stigmatisation of patients suffering from it is of growing concern to health practitioners in the Mitchell’s Plain area.“We want to educate residents on mental illness and break the silence and the stigma. Currently there is an increased number of patients being admitted with mental illnesses. There is a global crisis but more so in Mitchell’s Plain it is increasing because of substance abuse. “With this goes psychosis as well. The prevalence is increasing and we want the community to come to terms with what mental illness is and how to deal with someone in their families who has a mental illness. Not to stigmatise or isolate them but to make them a part of the community and how we can help them get better,” says Ruwayda Hull, occupational therapist for the Department of Health, based in Mitchell’s Plain.“We want to also look at prevention. Today I may be healthy, but it does not mean that I will be tomorrow or forever. I could have a traumatic event happen and then suffer from a mental illness so we look at coping mechanisms to help me stay healthy.” Anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar and substance induced psychosis are the most common treated mental illnesses in the area, says Hull.“Signs to look out for is when self care goes down, isolating themselves and becoming withdrawn, staying home from work, monitor their behaviours becoming different than the norm and also the common symptoms such as delusion and hallucinations. If it is a young person, work often suffers and some don’t want to involve themselves in daily tasks,” says Hull.“Behaviour is key. It is not always aggression, that is a myth, that is one of the biggest labels that people put on mental illness patients.” Candice Vankesteren, a fourth year Occupational Therapy student at the University of the Western Cape says she was inspired to become an occupational therapist to assist in breaking the stigma and after spending time in a step-down facility for patients about to be discharged from institutions.“When we engage with people with mental illnesses, often the narrative that comes out is that they feel isolated and alone. They feel their family and community don’t understand. “Looking at the environment they would be in, if the environment is not healthy, they will relapse or not be able to get healthy,” she says. V Continued on page 3.