Mental health patients urged to use essential service during lockdown

Tumelo waga Dibakwane and Alex Rose-Innes

THE SA Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) had urged mental health care users to seek help from essential services to weather the emotional impact of the lockdown on people.

The organisation said in a statement that while it was important for people to avoid leaving their homes at all cost, health care workers, including those caring for residents with mental illness, would be part of the essential services provided to South Africans.

The SAFMH said in its statement that those with mental illness were some of the most vulnerable in our society and more care was needed to ensure that they were not exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
It stressed that it was of the utmost importance for these people to continue taking and getting access to medication to ensure adherence to treatment, which is necessary to prevent relapses and maintain a balanced lifestyle, while at the same time ensuring minimum exposure to the virus.

According to a study published in Conflict and Health (2013), mental health problems, especially anxiety and mood disorders, are common in humanitarian emergencies, both natural and man-made disasters.

The SAFMH and the South African Depression and Anxiety organisation (SADAG) are using phone technology to offer services to mental health patients.

An international group consisting of the Pan African Network of Persons with Psychosocial Disabilities highlighted these issues herewith.
It said in an international statement that the following are at higher risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus:

● Living in social care institutions, shelters, psychiatric wards, correctional facilities and other settings that deprive them of their will to exercise social distance;
● The conditions in such environments usually increase risks of infections because of overcrowding, sharing amenities and being ill-equipped;
● Inability to access relevant health information in languages they can understand;
● Socio-economic challenges; preventing them from; following recommended preventative hygiene measures where they live;
● Mistreatment and abuse;
● Inadequate social support and inclusive communities and;
● The systemic discrimination against people with psychosocial disabilities.

In a statement last month, the Deputy Minister of Social Development, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, acknowledged that persons with disabilities are among the particularly vulnerable to the negative impact of COVID-19. She stressed that during this period of national disaster and lockdown, people with disabilities “should not be left behind”.

The deputy minister called for measures to ensure that persons with disabilities and their families continue to receive services during the lockdown, through residential facilities, including centre and community-based respite facilities, which would remain operational as they form part of the essential services.

For enquiries, contact Masutane Modjadji (Project Leader – Info & Awareness, SAFMH at masutane@safmh.org or (011) 781 1852.
SADAG – available 24hrs per day – (011) 234 4837.

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