Phoenix mental care facility is here to help

Excursions for mental health service users improves their confidence and social skills. Picture: Facebook

Excursions for mental health service users improves their confidence and social skills. Picture: Facebook

Published Aug 26, 2023


THE Durban and Coastal Mental Health care facility in Phoenix has set out to be a one stop mental health service for the community.

The centre, in Clayfield Drive, provides a home to 68 residents by offering 24-hour care. It includes medical treatment, social skills training, psychosocial rehabilitation, counselling and supportive services to residents and their families.

They also help residents with access to leisure activities and social and community integration.

Mbonisi Sibisi, the CEO of the facility, said they were a non-profit organisation that catered for the needs of persons with mental disabilities.

“The organisation was established in 1940 by a group of concerned medical doctors. The current head office is at 3 Hatton Avenue, Sherwood in Durban. The organisation currently runs 20 projects and Phoenix forms part of this.

"The Phoenix branch was opened in 1992. It must be noted that Phoenix is a branch of the organisation known as Durban and Coastal Mental Health.

"Quality services to disadvantaged communities and rural outreach programmes are key drivers of facility’s work, which is underpinned by values of openness, care, integrity, passion, learning, equality and excellence.

“From our humble beginnings to present, we have created a future of possibilities for people with intellectual disabilities. We presently have four programmes at our Phoenix project comprising of the Phoenix Residential Centre, the Phoenix Challenge Protective Training Workshop, the Phoenix Happy Hours Day Care Centre and the Social Work Programme.”

Sibisi said the residential centre was opened in 1992.

A sports day at Phoenix to commemorate International Day for Persons with Disabilities. Picture: Facebook

“The then House of Delegates provided the land and the loan for the building. This beautiful centre comprises four cottages, a spacious dining hall, kitchen, and laundry. The project is based within a one stop mental health service, including the Phoenix Happy Hours Day Care Centre, Challenge Protective Training Workshop and Social Work Programme.”

He said the Phoenix Challenge Protective Training Workshop aimed to promote self-worth, dignity and self-reliance, while facilitating a role for people with disability in the overall socio-economic development of communities.

“We provide skills training, contract work and psycho-social rehabilitation to beneficiaries daily at no cost. We also provide persons with disability with an opportunity to interact with and develop friendships with others attending the workshop. They derive a sense of purpose and meaning, where they engage in creative activities to develop their psycho-social functioning through craft, bread and card making, dancing and drama, etc.”

Sibisi said the day care centre was established in 1994. This was in response to the need identified by social workers and parents of children with profound mental and physical disabilities.

“Children with mental and physical disabilities should enjoy a fair and decent life in conditions which ensures dignity, promote social reliance and facilitate the child’s active participation in the community. Our day care centre has, over the years, aimed to maintain children with intellectual disability within their families and their communities while providing them with equitable access to developmental opportunities through a range of activities provided by the programme. Our Phoenix Happy Hours Day Care Centre provides a holistic package of care to 20 children with intellectual disability.”

He said the Social Work Programme in Phoenix was the largest sub-office of the organisation.

“The team comprises nine social workers and one chief social worker. The social workers render services in, among other areas, KwaMashu, Ntuzuma, Inanda, Phoenix, Verulam, Mount Moriah, Tongaat and KwaDukuza (Stanger).

“Our scope of work includes therapeutic group work and counselling services to persons with psychiatric and intellectual disabilities; and preventative and developmental mental health interventions. All of the services work towards assisting persons with mental disabilities to live balanced lives by promoting, protecting and restoring their mental well-being.

“Family re-integration and preservation remains the cornerstone of a healthy community. However, we have to accept that within the South African context, we still have to continue to provide community resources for persons with disability, largely due to the high number of disabled persons being abandoned, destitute and families having difficulties in offering the necessary care and support to the person with intellectual and psychiatric disability.”

Moonira Abdul-Roaf, a social work manager for more than 15 years, said: “Our Phoenix Residential Centre is subsidised by the Department of Social Development, and the Phoenix Protective Training Workshop for adults with psychiatric and intellectual disability is licensed by the Department for 240 people. However, we only have 146 people attending. More mental health care users are welcomed to apply to attend. This is a free service, but the mental health care user must be in receipt of a disability grant.”

She said some fees were charged on a sliding scale for the residential care and day care programmes.

“Our social work services are free to members of the public. However, the person requesting for counselling services must have been diagnosed by a psychiatrist with either psychiatric illness or intellectual disability. The Employee Assistance Programme services are offered to corporates at a minimal fee.”

Abdul-Roaf said stigma remained one of the main barriers faced by persons with a psychosocial disability in South Africa today.

“It is a major cause of discrimination and exclusion. It affects people’s self-esteem, disrupts relationships and limits people’s ability to socialise, according to the World Health Organization. Stigma can also prevent people from seeking the help they need.”

Sibisi said stigma could be eradicated if we started by meaningfully shifting attitudes to psychosocial disabilities across all areas of society.

“We, therefore, call for the media to consider their role in shifting attitudes regarding psychosocial disability (PD), specifically, how their reporting could promote positive attitudes towards PD and prevent stigma and discrimination.

“The public can reflect on their attitude towards PD as this can support more community inclusions for persons with PD. We also call on government to commit to their aims as set out in the National Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2023 to 2030 and to establish a robust national public education programme that focuses on knowledge sharing and stigma and discrimination against persons with lived experience.”

He said in addition to establishing this programme, government should implement widespread, detailed anti-stigma programmes developed in collaboration with persons with lived experience and advocacy organisations to ensure that the barriers faced in de-stigmatising mental illness are addressed.

“We also continue to call for purposeful commitment from government to listen to the stories of persons with PD, to learn from these, and to utilise these learnings within areas such as policy development and implementation. And we call on organisations working with persons with PD to commit to including their mental health care users in all aspects of anti-stigma policy and programming; and to encourage persons with PD to share their experiences and to be proud of their stories, with the aim of inspiring compassion, trust and understanding.”

For more information, call Abdul-Roaf at 083 799 5024. Follow the organisation on Facebook.