Western Cape Missing Persons Unit urges families that have someone with a mental illness who goes missing to report them missing immediately. DUMISANI DUBE
Western Cape Missing Persons Unit urges families that have someone with a mental illness who goes missing to report them missing immediately. DUMISANI DUBE

ID wrist bands for people with mental ailments could help if they go missing

By Shanice Naidoo Time of article published Oct 16, 2021

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Cape Town - There have been several recent reports of missing people with mental disabilities. Some were found unharmed and safe.

Some end up on community groups with people trying to rally together to track down the missing person’s family.

Western Cape Missing Persons Unit founder Candice van der Rheede said there is no reason for a sudden spike but sometimes it just happens, with most of those gone missing being male.

“It’s very difficult if they have for instance, Alzheimer’s or dementia, and are reported missing a while later. These people just walk and forget to drink liquids or eat anything and end up very dehydrated. That is why when we do find them they are always suffering from dehydration. If one of them is walking past you; you won’t even know they are lost because they look like they have direction. They don’t and end up walking for hours. A lot of the missing we haven’t found yet have cases dating back to 2018,” said Van der Rheede.

She urged families who have someone with a mental illness who goes missing to report them missing immediately.

Her unit has a project in the pipeline to make rubber bands with information about the person with a number to call should they go missing or forget where they are or who they are.

Recently, Ridhwaan Davids went missing in Bonteheuwel on September 12. He was last seen at his home. He was reported as mentally unstable. The unit is still searching for him.

Director of Pink Ladies Jacqui Thomas said it is quite prevalent that people with mental disabilities or illnesses go missing.

“Carers of the aged and mentally affected can assist greatly by obtaining a medic-alert or other stainless steel type bracelet for these individuals that cannot be removed without assistance. Ideally, some should show their medical condition and an emergency contact number of a reliable family member,” she said.

Police spokesperson Colonel Andre Traut said the disappearance of people, especially young children and mentally challenged persons is a cause of concern to SAPS, and they will support any initiative that is within the framework of the law to ensure that a missing person is reunited with his or her family.

“Identification in the form of a wrist band for people who are not in a position to inform authorities of their credentials is one such initiative that is supported. We are duty-bound to issue a warning that prevention is better than cure, and every endeavour should be taken to ensure that people who cannot fend for themselves are not placed in a position where his or her disappearance is a likelihood. There are many dangers associated with a missing person, and an identification band is only a method to trace the family and will offer no assistance against these dangers,“ he said.

Weekend Argus

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