About this Journal

Article Abstract

Online ISSN: 1099-176X    Print ISSN: 1091-4358
The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics
Volume 4, Issue 4, 2001. Pages: 189-196

Published Online: 20 Jun 2002

Copyright © 2001 ICMPE.


Profile of Community Mental Health Service Needs in the Moretele District (North-West Province) in South Africa

Precious Modiba,1* Helen Schneider1, Kimberly Porteus1 and Veronica Gunnarson1

1Centre for Health Policy, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

*Correspondence to: Precious Modiba, Centre for Health Policy, School
of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, P.O.BOX 1038,
Johannesburg, 2001, South Africa.
Tel.: +27 11-489-9936
Fax: +27 11-489-9900
E-mail: preciousm@mail.saimr.wits.ac.za

Source of Funding: Health Systems Trust (Grant N° 231/98)


Background: The emergence of democracy in South Africa led to a need to transform all public structures, including the health care system. The aim has been to transform these structures in order to bring them in line with the new culture of human rights. Transformation of the whole health care system is motivated by a number of key objectives, which include achieving equity in resource allocation and health service delivery, developing primary health care infrastructure and decentralising services to promote community participation.

Aims of the Study: In the context of de-institutionalising mental health services in South Africa, this study aimed to investigate community mental health service needs of mental health service users and that of their families in the Moretele district, North-West province, South Africa.

Methods: The study was conducted in three clinics situated in three different communities in the Moretele district. Data collection consisted of : 147 clinical record reviews, 105 interviews with patients followed by a joint interview with a family member, 83 interviews with caregivers and eight interviews with community key informants (traditional healers, a civic leader, a councillor, a retired teacher, and a physician).

Results: The majority of service users were males (54%). The mean age was 41 years and 63% had completed primary schooling.Patients were recorded as having only one of two primary diagnoses, namely “schizophrenia” (57%) or “epilepsy” (41%). However, a review of prescribed drugs and caregiver interviews showed that there was a presence of mood disorders among service users. The local hospital was service users’ primary entry point into the mental health care system, followed by traditional healers (30%). Interviews with service users, service providers and caregivers reveal limited knowledge of patient illness. Nevertheless, service users who had epilepsy were more likely to provide details of their illness than those with mental illness. Above half of service users had basic social skills such as bathing, eating, washing and using public transportation independently. Feelings of loneliness and isolation were common among service users in the community; seventy nine percent (79%), for example spent their days entirely in their homes. Only 7% reported contact with friends. Experiences of community discrimination and exploitation of people with mental illness were reported in key informant interviews and by service users themselves.

Discussion: The main community mental health service needs identified in this study were: (i) Improved quality of mental health services at clinics. (ii) Better co-ordination of services (clinic, hospital, social work and traditional healers) and removal of barriers to health service utilisation. (iii) Alleviation of the social isolation of mental health service users by building on existing community structures and individuals willing to engage in partnerships with service providers. The authors indentify a need to train primary health care providers in mental health in order to promote the adequate diagnosis and detection of common psychiatric illnesses.They also point out the need for social support interventions to enable people with mental illness to deal with loneliness and isolation and a need for psycho-educational programmes to make patients and caregivers better informed about mental illness.



Received 30 October 2001; accepted 12 April 2002

Copyright 2001 ICMPE