City boosts its mental-health response footprint

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As part of the City of Cape Town’s commitment to prioritising mental health, in the aftermath of Mental Health Awareness Month (October), a local clinic boasts trained staff equipped to screen for and manage common mental health conditions.

Ikhwezi Clinic is one of 15 facilities that will be served by three clinical psychologists afforded by the City’s Health Department to offer a helping hand free of charge.

“City Health is committed to providing comprehensive and holistic care to the communities of Cape Town without stigma or discrimination,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Patricia van der Ross. “Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and occupational stress are common.

“These conditions affect not only the quality of life of the individual, but also their families and co-workers, and the broader community. There is also a knock-on effect on the economy and industry through increased absenteeism, reduced productivity and increased costs.”

Mental Health Awareness Month aims to educate the public about mental health and reducing the stigma and discrimination experienced by those suffering from mental illness.

Mental health problems are the result of a complex interplay among biological, psychological, social and environmental factors.

“There has been a gradual increase in the number of mental health screenings at our clinics,” Van der Ross said. “In 2020 our practitioners saw 3 269 people, 4 412 last year and until August this year 3 463. I want to encourage our residents not to suffer alone and in silence. Help is available and it’s free of charge.”

  • Like physical disorders, mental and brain disorders vary in severity. There are those that are:

• Transient, eg an acute stress disorder,

• Periodic, eg bipolar disorder, characterised by periods of exaggerated elation followed by periods of depression, and

• Long lasting and progressive, eg major depressive disorders, Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Mental illness may present in different ways for different people. The most common mental illnesses are depression and anxiety. Some symptoms of depression or anxiety may include:

• little interest or pleasure in doing things

• feeling sad, depressed or hopeless

• fatigue or loss of energy

• disturbed sleep – too little or too much

• change in appetite or weight

• feeling guilty or worthless

• reduced concentration or difficulty making decisions

• thoughts or plans of self-harm

• feeling nervous, anxious or on edge

• feeling restless or agitated

• not being able to stop or control worrying

• body pain, headaches, gastrointestinal disturbance

• change in functioning – unable to cope with previous responsibilities or tasks

It is important to be aware of the more subtle signs of mental illness or disturbance such as:

• absenteeism from school or work

• decreased performance academically or at work

• social isolation – declining social invites, no longer attending religious activities

• children of sufferers: unkempt, poor behaviour, poor school performance

• irritability, aggression, increased time away from home “working late” or “going to the pub”, physical symptoms, disengaged or pre-occupied

• hoarding or a poorly maintained home/yard

• increased need for sleeping tablets or pain medication

  • Despite increased awareness and advocacy for mental health and wellness, a large number of people still avoid seeking treatment for their mental symptoms due to stigma and lack of access. Reducing stigma to mental health and the treatment of mental health has far-reaching benefits including:

• Improved help seeking behaviour

• Improved quality of life

• Improved treatment outcomes

• Reduced adverse outcomes such as self-harm, community-inflicted violence, imprisonment

• Increased demand for mental health services – improved funding and provision of mental health services

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