The SA Federation for Mental Health this week took part in the National Investigative Hearings on Mental Health, which took place from the 14th to the 15th of November at the South African Human Rights Commission Head office in Johannesburg. SAFMH would like to commend the Human Rights Commission for organising the hearing, so that solutions can be sought for the current problems that face South Africa’s mental health sector.

On the 15th of November, SAFMH Programme Manager for Advocacy and development, Charlene Sunkel, did a presentation based on the submission SAFMH made to the Human Rights Commission on the state of mental health care in South Africa. The submission was based on challenges that mental health care users reported to SAFMH as part of our research and advocacy work throughout the provinces.

Some of the challenges include:

  1. The shortage of available psychiatric beds in hospitals across most provinces
  2. The fact that upscaling of community based services and facilities is not taking place in line with the Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Action Plan
  3. The continued problem of medication stock outs at state hospitals and clinics, which results in increased relapses and hospitalisation for mental health care users
  4. Poor resources for awareness and education involving persons with mental disabilities, and the need for more emphasis on contact based education and awareness
  5. Lack of commitment from provinces towards the resourcing and implementation of the Mental Health Policy Framework

SAFMH has also offered some suggestions as part of our submission on how the Department of Health can address these issues, and how we believe mental health care should be prioritised in future.

As a national advocacy organisation, SAFMH and the South African Mental Health Advocacy Movement (SAMHAM), is offering our expertise to the Department of Health, to try and ensure that the revamping and upscaling of the mental health care system in South Africa is done in collaboration with mental health care users and families, and done so in a manner that is person-centred and based on best-practice, complies with national policies and legislation, and is aligned with international treaties such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

It is of utmost importance that mental health care users and families are involved in any process that relates to matters that affect them directly. Mental health care users and families are able to play a valuable role inproviding guidance to upscaling mental health services, as they are the users of the system and are knowledgeable about the gaps that exist and can add valuable recommendations to address the challenges.

It is our hope that meaningful discussions and changes will come from the hearing, and we look forward to the opportunity to assist in the upscaling of mental health services in South Africa.


Marthé Kotze

Programme Manager: Information & Awareness

SA Federation for Mental Health


011 781 1852

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