Heartbreaking see the conditions that Zandile Mafe has been ordered to follow by the court.In a twist of events the Parliament fire accused Zandile Mafe has been ordered by the court to be admitted to a psychiatric facility after he was provisionally diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
This has opened up a can of worms for the government as it has brought to light how the poor who are living with mental illness have neglected in the community.
This has led to questions regarding mental healthcare access for the poor being asked following the courts order for Zandile Mafe to be admitted for a 30-day psychiatric observation.
Ricardo Julian Rossouw, a mental health activist, noted how the less priveledged are disadvantaged and don’t have access to mental health facilities because they simply don’t have the money.
“Most people have a lack of funds to access private facilities because if you are poor, you would not be able to afford that and the government facilities are often overwhelmed. These people also work low-income jobs and so they don’t have the time to access mental health facilities,” said Rossouw.
He went on to not that he thinks poverty is the root cause of mental health illness and that focus should also be put in recovering from poverty.
“There is a high demand for mental health services for people who are living in poverty which is a social condition and is commonly a precursor for poor mental health,” said Rossouw.
The courts order for Zandile Mafe comes after he went on a hunger strike and the Parliament arsonist who accused Zandile Mafe said he should spend 30 days at Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital for observation
To address the mental health issue among the poor the Western Cape Department of Health has said that mental health services are available to all people at no charge.
Spokesperson Maret Lesch said: “We provide mental health care to every person who needs it. Our mental health services are free and can be accessed via our primary healthcare facilities or clinics. If further care is required upon assessment, the person will be referred.”
The Rehoming Collective founder Carlos Mesquita said while services are free, homeless people have different priorities.
“People living on the street… their priorities are different to other people and survival is key. If I’m living on the street, the priority is to find money to buy food, cigarettes, and drugs, not to go to the hospital, and so they leave it for much longer than somebody who can go to the doctor whenever they have a headache,” Mesquita said.
He went on to note that the reason why there is a high number of mentally disabled people is that families have abandoned them.
“Most of the people who are on the street already have disability grants when they are on the street where they are on psychiatric medication because families can’t handle their situation and the cheaper option is to put them in shelters. Our shelters are full of ladies who are on antidepressants that are difficult to handle,” Mesquita said.
“Weekly I get calls from sisters at Valkenberg and other psychiatric institutions that ask me to place patients in our accommodation unit. The hospital only takes extreme cases in their facilities and when it’s just people taking up a bed as far as they are concerned, they put them in shelters. This is the wrong thing because we are not equipped to handle those cases,” Mesquita said.
He added that homeless people rarely get helped at public hospitals.
“Some hospitals have a bad reputation for helping homeless people because they are not treated well there and I do understand where it comes from… it stems from the fact that they get a lot of people on drugs who pose as mentally ill patients, but hospital staff is not very sensitive towards homeless people,” Mesquita said.