October is Mental Health Awareness Month. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency
Pretoria - Many people, including healthcare practitioners, were dying in silence and drowning in their own thoughts with little or no intervention from the healthcare system.

The president of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa, Simon Hlungwani, said there were many problems in the sector, from a shortage of facilities to lack of counselling for healthcare practitioners.

October is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Hlungwani took a jab at the government, saying there were poor systems in place to deal with what had become increasing illness for citizens.

He said Mpumalanga did not have a mental health institution, which in turn resulted in crowding of Gauteng facilities.

“Patients with mental illnesses get cared for in provinces like Gauteng, thus indicating lack of will and urgency in caring for such patients. Student nurses in that province were receiving their training on psychiatry in KwaZulu-Natal.

“It has taken Northern Cape over 10 years to build, complete and open a mental health institution in Kimberley. While most patients suffer from the condition, the healthcare system is producing its own victims among healthcare practitioners,” he said.

Hlungwani said those working in the healthcare sector were exposed to traumatic experiences daily with no support structure in the form of debriefing sessions. “Many nurses who work in trauma and emergency units of hospitals attend to patients with gunshots and stab wounds daily and develop symptoms of depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illnesses because these compound their already many personal stresses.”

In the past, he said there used to be counselling services for health workers at each institution to help them cope with the stressful work.

Pretoria News