The Portfolio Committee on Health has urged South Africans to come together and do away with stigma attached to mental illness.
This comes as the country is commemorating mental health in the month of October. Chairperson of the Committee, Dr Bevan Goqwana says it is disheartening to see how people with mental illness are being treated. “We must guard against the attitude of treating patients with mental illness as outcasts. Mental illness is a disease that can be treated even in extreme cases,” he said.
Mr Goqwana says the stigma could also be related to the fact that people think that there is no cure for it, and this is further worsened by the fact that the term depression “does not exist” in most African cultures. The Committee has asked the Department of Health to look after and refurbish mental health institutions as most of them are neglected.
October is also breast cancer awareness month, and the Committee urges all women to get tested for breast cancer. Dr Goqwana says early detection of the cancer is critical. He emphasises constant self-examination among women and encourages families of those who are living with cancer to continue supporting them.