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 PRESS RELEASE: SAFMH CONDEMNS ABUSE OF LEARNER WITH DISABILITY

18 September 2017

The SA Federation for Mental Health is very concerned by the video footage that emerged this morning, showing a learner with a mental disability being beaten and forced off a school bus by staff of the Adelaide Tambo School. Although we welcome the fact that the staff member responsible has allegedly been placed on suspension and charged with assault, the video highlights the mistreatment that many people with mental disabilities still face.

Persons with mental disabilities are often vulnerable to abuse and discrimination, and children with mental disabilities especially need our protection and care. The fact that adults who are entrusted with the care of vulnerable children would physically and verbally abuse them in this way is shocking and is a blatant violation of the learner’s human rights. The Life Esidimeni tragedy has been a lesson in what can happen if people with mental disabilities are not treated with dignity and respect, and it is unfortunate that even after Life Esidimeni we still see human rights violations like these take place.

SAFMH would like to call on all sectors of society to respect and uphold the rights of persons with mental disabilities, and to speak up if they see these rights being violated in any way. We also call on Government to ensure that teachers and care workers who work with children with mental disabilities receive the training and support needed to enable them to provide these children with the proper care. Members of the public are encouraged to report any cases of human rights violations to the SAFMH Mental Health Watch Reporting System:

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tel: 011 781 1852

Sms/whatsapp: 076 0788 722

Online: www.safmh.org

 FOR ENQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Marthé Kotze

Programme Manager: Information & Awareness

SA Federation for Mental Health

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

PRESS RELEASE: SAFMH LAUNCHES MY MENTAL HEALTH.ORG YOUTH WEBSITE

Every year, the 10th of September is dedicated to World Suicide Prevention Day. This year, the SA Federation for Mental Health is commemorating the day by announcing the launch of My Mental Health.org, a new youth focused website aimed at supporting the mental health of South African youth. (www.my-mh.org)

According to the World Health Organisation, suicide is the second leading cause of death worldwide among 15–29-year-olds. In South Africa, studies have shown that 9.5% of non-natural deaths in young people are as a result of suicide. Research by Professor Lourens Schlebush of the University of KwaZulu-Natal have also found that in South African youth most suicides occur in the 15-19 year age group, followed by the 10-14 year age group.

Suicide itself is not a mental disorder, but one of the most important causes of suicide is often mental illness – such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder or substance use disorders.

South Africa’s youth are currently growing up in very difficult social and economic circumstances. Recent findings from Statistics South Africa show that over three million young South Africans between the ages of 15 and 24 are currently unemployed, and many young South African’s are exposed to violent crime and domestic abuse on a daily basis. All of this has a negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of young people, and impacts on their ability to function at school, in the workplace, and to have healthy and happy personal relationships.

My Mental Health.org has been created to provide South African youth with an accessible online resource that can educate and empower them in terms of mental health and wellbeing. The website provides articles, factsheets and infographics on topics such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide, substance abuse and exam stress, and the information will constantly be updated and added to in an effort to make it as relevant and helpful to young people as possible. It will also provide a portal through which young people can engage with SAFMH, ask questions, seek support and gather more information on mental health as and when they require it. SAFMH hopes that this online informational tool will be useful and helpful to South African youth, and that it will assist them in taking care of their mental health.

 

FOR ENQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Marthé Kotze

Programme Manager: Information & Awareness

SA Federation for Mental Health

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SAFMH invites all interested parties to the Annual General Meeting, taking place on the 13th of September 2017.

The SA Federation for Mental Health hosted the I Decide=I Am travelling art exhibition from the 17th to the 27th of July at our Randburg offices.

PRESS RELEASE: CALL FOR GOVERNMENT TO PRIORITISE MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

31 July 2017 - July Psychosocial Disability Awareness Month

As Psychosocial Disability Awareness Month draws to an end, the SA Federation for Mental Health wants to reiterate our call for the upscaling and integration of community mental healthcare services across South Africa. Throughout the month of July SAFMH, as well as our Mental Health Societies across the country, advocated for existing community mental health services to be upscaled and to receive increased support, as well as for mental health services to be integrated into existing health systems, thereby maximising reach and minimising costs. It is important however that advocacy for this important cause does not stop at the end of this awareness month, but that it continues until mental health is treated as a priority by Government and other stakeholders in the health sector.

A recent report released by the South African Society for Psychiatrists (SASOP) on the state of care in the various provinces highlighted once again the poor state of mental healthcare currently available to mental healthcare users.

The report found:

  • There are only six public sector psychiatrists serving the whole of Limpopo province
  • Hayani hospital in Limpopo, a 390-bed mental health specialist hospital, currently has no psychiatrist.
  • In all provinces, psychiatrists have to admit children and adolescents unlawfully into adult psychiatry wards.
  • In Kwa-Zulu Natal, a massive specialist staffing crisis exists where only 20 of the 45 specialist posts are filled.
  • No province currently has organised community-based psychiatric services.

SAFMH was hopeful that following the Life Esidimeni tragedy, Government would prioritise the implementation of the Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Action Plan (2013-2020), as well as the upscaling of mental healthcare nationwide. However to date this has not been the case. For example, one of SAFMH’s Mental Health Societies, Port Elizabeth Mental Health, this year received a funding cut of 57% by the Department of Social Development, seriously impacting their services and the organisations sustainability. Government cannot claim to be committed to rectifying tragedies like Life Esidimeni, while also making massive funding cuts to other mental health projects.

As this awareness month ends, SAFMH would like to again call on Government to provide increased support and funding for community based mental health services, as well as for the integration of mental health services into primary healthcare on a community level, to ensure that mental healthcare users are able to receive the quality treatment they deserve.

FOR ENQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Marthé Kotze

Programme Manager: Information & Awareness

SA Federation for Mental Health

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

011 781 1852

PRESS RELEASE: CORRECTING MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS AND CRIME

05 July 2017

The SA Federation for Mental Health was recently alerted to a column published by an online news agency, which seemed to link South Africa’s high crime rates with mental illness. While we commemorate Psychosocial Disability Awareness month during the month of July, SAFMH feels it is important to address these misconceptions and their potential negative consequences on the lives of people living with mental health disorders.

The idea that people with mental disorders or disabilities are more prone to violence than other members of society is one of the most strongly held and harmful misconceptions that still exists in our society, and one that is often enforced by media reporting. It is important to recognise the potentially devastating effects that these false beliefs can have on the lives of those living with mental disorders, as it can lead to increased levels of stigma and discrimination, social exclusion and the denial of basic human rights.

The media can either contribute to the belief that mental illness contributes or leads to crime, or help to fight it, through their reporting. Throughout the years many international studies have been done on the portrayal of mental illness in the media, and how this portrayal affects public perceptions. Studies have shown that negative media reporting leads to the perception that mental illness is linked to violence, crime, unpredictability, being a danger to self or others, or that people with mental disorders are passive victims deserving of pity. 

However through positive and fair reporting the media also has the power to help shift public perceptions about mental health, and reduce stigma and discrimination.

Here is what research has found regarding the link between mental illness and violence:

  • “The combined evidence from these studies indicates that…persons with psychotic diagnoses are less likely or at least no more likely to commit violence…a history of delusions and a diagnosis of paranoia were unrelated to future violence.” - Harris, Grant T. and Marnie E. Rice. "Risk Appraisal and Management of Violent Behavior". PS 48.9 (1997): 1168- 1176.
  • "…the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illnesses." - American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Fact Sheet: Violence and Mental Illness, Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
  • "People with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime.” - Hiroeh, Urara et al. "Death by Homicide, Suicide, and Other Unnatural Causes In People With Mental Illness: A Population-Based Study". The Lancet 358.9299 (2001): 2110-2112.
  • “People with severe mental illnesses, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, are 2 ½ times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population." - Hiday, Virginia Aldigé et al. "Criminal Victimization of Persons with Severe Mental Illness". PS 50.1 (1999): 62-68.

With these facts in mind, it is crucial that the media reports responsibly on cases involving persons with mental disorders or disabilities. Speculation, inaccurate or one sided reporting can do an incredible amount of damage and help to increase stigma and discrimination.

Trying to link South Africa’s high crime rates with mental illness or disorders such as foetal alcohol syndrome (which is not a mental illness but rather a developmental disorder), is unfounded and reckless, as it endangers the lives of those who are already vulnerable and face discrimination and abuse. SAFMH would like to encourage all members of the media to report fairly and accurately on mental health and all related factors, and to make use of tools such as the SAFMH Media Guide for Responsible Reporting on Mental Health to guide them in terms of terminology or topics they may not be sure of. Media practitioners are also encouraged to contact SAFMH if they require information, statistics or other assistance. 

 

The SAFMH Media Guide for Responsible Reporting on Mental Health can be accessed here.

 

FOR ENQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Marthé Kotze

Programme Manager: Information & Awareness

SA Federation for Mental Health

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

011 781 1852