Over 90% mental health treatment gap for children and adolescents in the Western Cape

Khayelitsha Eastern substructure deputy director Neshaan Peton answering the audience’s questions.

Khayelitsha Eastern substructure deputy director Neshaan Peton answering the audience’s questions.

Published Oct 7, 2022


Cape Town - Ahead World Mental Health Awareness Day and with October marking Mental Health awareness month, Waves for Change, with partners, highlighted the major gaps that exist in addressing child and adolescent mental health.

Its annual Learning and Partnerships event was held at the Hyatt Regency Cape Town on Wednesday, with representatives from the Department of Health and Wellness and Department of Social Development present. This year’s theme was “Closing the gap on mental health”.

Based in Cape Town, the non-profit organisation, founded in 2011, uses surf therapy as a preventative mental health solution for children and young people who have experienced trauma, as well as specialised programmes for neurodiverse children.

Waves for Change operates three beach sites (Khayelitsha, Muizenberg and Hout Bay) in the province, and two in the Eastern Cape (Gqeberha and East London). Its surf-therapy programmes reach more than 2 000 children annually.

Neshaan Peton, deputy director of the Department of Health’s comprehensive health programme for the Khayelitsha Eastern substructure, said they did not have a district psychiatrist or psychologist.

The Michael Mapongwana Community Health Centre has been closed several times in the past few months due to hijackings and crime.

“At Site B Community Health Clinic, we’ve got medical officers, radiographers, and dieticians that have been off for more than a couple of months because they’ve been repeatedly attacked or hijacked. So that is our lived reality in Khayelitsha Eastern substructure. So our package of care is fairly fragmented,” Peton said.

The percentage of absent fathers in communities is 60%.

“In Khayelitsha Eastern Substructure, we have a lot of single or child-headed households and that in itself is a trauma,” Peton said.

The Department of Health’s Clinical Programme co-ordinator for the Khayelitsha Eastern substructure, Stella Mokitimi, said the treatment gap in child and adolescent mental health in the province was greater than 90%, with fewer than 1 in 10 children and adolescents with a diagnosable and treatable mental health disorder receiving care.

Waves for Change national director and registered nurse Robyn Cohen said: “Since joining W4C more than five years ago, we’ve grown and strengthened our referral networks and pathways, making our service more accessible and responsive to the needs of the communities that we work with.”