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Miss SA speaks about her experience with depression

8 November 2017

By Claire Keeton | Oct 10, 2017

Medical doctor Ade van Heerden will not only represent South Africa at the Miss World competition next month‚ she hopes to put a psychiatric hospital on the Cape Flats on the map.

The Miss South Africa 2017 runner-up spoke at Lentegeur hospital in Mitchells Plain recently where various projects were being showcased to coincide with world mental health day.

“We need to be brave: not the knight-in-shining-armour bravery‚ but brave enough to speak about our vulnerability and emotions‚” said Van Heerden who is the hospital’s ambassador.

“Having had personal experience of depression‚ I know that the sooner we can acknowledge our feelings‚ the sooner road to recovery starts. Let us fight stigma by speaking up.”

The hospital — which is biggest psychiatric hospital in the Southern Hemisphere and gets referrals from traditional healers — is involved in two pioneering initiatives.

The Rose Parent Project places mental health patients with “parents”‚ who care for them under their roof.

And the visionary Spring Foundation empowers patients to feel connected and purposeful through initiatives like tending its flourishing market garden‚ fixing wheelchairs and doing creative arts.

Van Heerden said she would showcase the projects and hospital at the Miss World competition in China.

Rose Parent Project coordinator and supervisor Esterline Martin said the social workers screen parents and patients to make the best matches for both parties.

They also monitor the patients’ care and help if re-admission into hospital is needed.

The most common mental health disorders in SA are anxiety‚ depression and substance abuse.

Lentegeur psychiatrist and co-chairman of the UCT Division of Public Mental Health Dr Fadiel Williams talked about the stigma of being branded “mal”.

Williams said an estimated 10‚000 people in the Western Cape needed treatment for their mental health but they are just not seeking it. Only about a quarter of people needing treatment sought it and about 11% in the province got it.

He commended the hospital for reaching out into the community. He said: “In this hospital I get referrals from traditional healers.”

Lameze Abrahams‚ the head of psychology at Lentegeur‚ spoke about turning the workplace into a setting for health promotion.

“It is not just the right thing to do. A healthy workplace is a productive workplace‚” she said.

“Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide‚” she said‚ noting that one in five people in the workplace has a mental health illness.

Western Cape MEC for Health Dr Nomafrench Mbombo said she was impressed with the trust and attachments between patients and their nurses and doctors.

“The important issue about mental health is not to see it as ‘the other person’. It is us‚ every fourth person in the room‚” she said.

Spring Foundation pioneer and Lentegeur psychiatrist Dr John Parker said mental health conditions on the Cape Flats were being diagnosed in context of extreme poverty‚ food insecurity and stress.

He said psychiatry was born in institutions and the Spring Foundation aimed to transform Lentegeur from looking like a prison to a landscape of wellness and hope.

“Slowly but surely‚ we are bringing hope into all our work‚” he said‚ with research to prove this model can work.

Source: Sowetan Live

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