ACCORDING to Hibberdene Care Centre founder Felicity Govender, mental illnesses are the most stigmatised and are the most detrimental illnesses affecting people countrywide.The halfway house for mentally ill patients, which was founded 18 years ago as an old-age home, finally received approval for a government subsidy this month and Govender said this was a major improvement for the mental health sector. “With the exception of the intellectually challenged, no one is born mentally ill. People become mentally ill because of things that happen in their life. Many sitting in corporate boardrooms are on bipolar medication yet they refuse to raise awareness about mental illness because they are ashamed,” said Govender.Govender said one of the centre’s main challenges was integrating patients from poorer communities. “Poor families cannot feed the extreme hunger caused by psych medication so they take the patients off their medication to save money,” she said adding that most of these families depended on the patient’s disability grant to survive. A centre that works with the poor in the district is the Ikhanzi Day Care Centre in Umzumbe. Founder Dennis Hlongwa, a health practitioner at a local clinic said progress at the centre was slow due to lack of funds although donations were received from community projects like the Umusa Community Project.“I grew up in a violent home, my father suffered mental illness and terrorised the family. I then vowed to prevent others from going through the same nightmare,” said Hlongwa. Hlongwa said the relationship between mental health and poverty was a vicious circle which disabled patients from functional recovery. “The area of Deshwula, Umzumbe has high incidences of mentally ill patients due to severe trauma caused by faction fighting, muti-killings, witchcraft and subsequent substance abuse,” said Hlongwa. He said there were currently 44 people diagnosed with mental illness in the area.Visit TherapyRoute.com to find counsellors, psychologists, social workers, community clinics, and other mental health professionals and services.