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Because there's no health without mental health

16/06/2017 15:30 SAST | Updated 16/06/2017 15:37 SAST, Zongile Nhlapo, Lifestyle Reporter for HuffPost SA

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Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi during a media briefing by the Health Ombudsman to announce the final report on the Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients (Photo by Gallo Images / Sandile Ndlovu)

International and local healthcare experts, from Discovery Health CEO Jonathan Broomberg to the president of the World Federation of Mental Health, Prof Gabriel Ivbijaro shared interesting insights on mental health issues at the Discovery and SADAG Mental Health Media Summit held in Johannesburg on Thursday.

These were our 9 key takeaways:

  • 1 in 3 South Africans will suffer from mental health at some point in their lives
  • There is a shortage of mental healthcare practitioners in Africa, compared to other parts of the world
  • 80 percent of people with mental health conditions come from lower - middle income countries
  • Mental healthcare is underfunded - only 1,54 percent of the total health budget in low income countries goes to mental healthcare
  • In South Africa, no new mental healthcare facilities since 1994, placing a big burden on general hospitals
  • Some provinces in the country don't even have Directorates of Mental Health
  • Some medical schemes don't pay for outpatient care. There are also no beds for people need involuntary care.
  • There is a challenge in mental healthcare delivery in the country - it's still fragmented. One patient may see a therapist, psychiatrist, cardiologist, yet these healthcare practitioners never meet. This patient might end up taking 15 - 20 medications and taking a number of blood tests, which may worsen his or her condition.
  • People are sleeping a lot less in 2017 than 2007, especially young people. This can have direct mental health effects.

Dr Mvuyiso Talatala says this is most likely to change when there is a political will to implement policies, particularly in South Africa. And government must commit itself to the cost implications of this.

"If you develop primary healthcare, it will cost you," says Talatala.

At least three mental healthcare experts at the summit agreed that government should also strongly consider integrating mental healthcare at primary healthcare facilities. This will improve access, and help reduce the stigma still associated with mental health illness.

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