House Chairperson, I rise on behalf of the ANC to support the portfolio committee's report on the SA Human Rights Commission's report into the status of mental health care in South Africa.
Health is defined by the World Health Organisation, WHO, as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing. Mental health is therefore, an essential element of health and it is crucial to the overall wellbeing of individuals and society. Most mental disorders have their origins in childhood and adolescence. Approximately 50% of mental disorders begin before the age of 14 years. The relationship between poverty and mental ill health is a vicious cycle. People living in poverty are at risk of developing mental disorders through the stress of living in poverty, lack of social support, increased exposure to violence and worse, physical health.
The ANC welcomes efforts of the Department of Basic Education and Health to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness in schools and increasing access to health services, including counselling through formal referral pathways accessible to educators. The various relevant departments have an obligation to source out the necessary funds and ensure execution of these programmes.
A long and healthy life requires us to invest in mental health so that we not only reduce the substantial burden of untreated mental disorders but reach levels mental health that are higher than the mere absence of disease or infinity. Good mental health, no doubt, contributes substantially to our social and economic development.
Many schools do not recognise the consequences of suicidal tendencies in children. Depression is one of the most common emotional disorders in children, affecting as many as one in every 33 children. Depression can produce serious difficulties and interfere in the child's life and development.
Studies have found that the burden of mental illness in the great DA-run Western Cape province. In this province, mental health illness is closely associated with the scourge of substance abuse and gang-related crimes. The Western Cape government turns to ignore the plight of the poor in favour of policing solutions. The Western Cape government must instead invest in social assistance programmes for youngsters and adults struggling with mental disorders and drug addictions.
One of the most devastating consequences of depression in children is the high rate of attempted and successful suicides. It has been estimated that between 90 and 97 suicide victims have suffered from mental illness. In almost half the cases, a diagnosis of depression has been found.
In South Africa, a research indicates that one in five teenagers think about harming themselves, with 7,8% of these young people attempting to carry out their wish to harm themselves. Other studies have found that 24,5% of attempted suicide cases amongst black South Africans have occurred in young people aged 17 or below. These devastating statistics highlight the need for early identification of possible emotional problems in children; thus, preventing these children from carrying out suicidal inclination before it is too late.
Mental health is part of the general health. It should be integrated into the general health care and people with mental disorders should be treated in primary health care clinics and in general hospitals. Mental health services should be planned at all levels at the health services centres and be treated as a matter of priority in all sectors of the society, school in particular.
The ANC believes that every learner is a national asset. We are, thus, committed to building an inclusive education and training system, which will ensure that mental illness challenges are treated rather than criminalised.
The national Department of Health has placed the National Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2013-20, which is currently being implemented in all nine provinces. It identifies the key activities that are being implemented in all the provinces. The ANC recognises the burdens of mental strain our people feel today. As South Africans, we have always being able to come together to overcome local, national and global challenges. With increased suicide rates and depression in the South African population, the ANC appeals to all communities to stand together in times of difficulty.
To the Western Cape government and members of the DA, no amount of grandstanding in this House can hide what is happening here in the Western Cape. ... [Interjections.] ... Thank you very much, Chairperson. [Applause.]