Mitchell’s Plain community health centre kicked ignorance of mental health to the curb, when it took its awareness campaign to the streets.
Their campaign “Break the silence. Stamp out stigma” had passers-by paint their hand and making a print of it on a cloth, to record their messages of hope, on Wednesday November 7.
Through the campaign, the centre’s rehabilitation care workers (RCW) and fourth-year occupational therapy students at the University of the Western Cape, aimed to increase awareness around mental health concerns and combat related stigmas.
Occupational therapist Ruwayda Hull said they wanted to engage with community members, families and clients living with mental illness.
Their programmed aimed – to educate the public about various mental disorders; promote RCW services in the community; reduce stigma about mental illness; and to give information about issues concerning mental illness. “Through these strategies, we hope to reduce stigma and empower families and clients to take ownership and integrate in daily society.
“We also aim to assist communities to reach out and facilitate a more cohesive and integrated society that reflects empathy and insight to mental health,” she said.
Ms Hull said the main purpose of creating awareness was to demystify the myths and stigma concerning mental health.
“We are all at risk of mental illness as we all experience episodes of depression, stress and anxiety on a daily basis,” she said.
“It is when these illnesses consume every aspect of your life that one needs to acknowledge that –. I need help to get me back on track before a breakdown occurs.
“We want people in Mitchell’s Plain to identify with mental illness so that strategies can be implemented to address the prevention and promotion of wellness and good quality of life,” said Ms Hull.
“Stress, depression, anxiety and mental illness are part of everyday life and people should work together to build functional societies that do not discriminate and isolate or turn a blind eye.”
She said in Mitchell’s Plain there was a high prevalence of mental illness due to substance abuse. This is referred to as substance-induced psychosis.
The prevalence of social ills in the community, often exacerbates the condition of someone with mental illness.
“Stigma and ignorance are among the things that lead to families and communities unable to effectively manage the person living with mental illness,” she said.
People with mental illness are often viewed as burdens on society, aggressive and dangerous.
As a result, said Ms Hull, families tend to repeatedly bring them back into the healthcare system to alleviate the strain and negative impact on the family.
She explained that this was the revolving door phenomenon – the same clients are admitted all of the time with brief episodes of living in the community.
“Families just don’t know what to do with the unstable person or even how to prevent a psychotic episode,” she said.