According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental health conditions are the third leading cause of disability in the world. South African morbidity data indicates that mental disorders are the 3rd highest contributor to the local burden of disease, after HIV and other infectious diseases and it is estimated that at least one in five South Africans suffer from a mental health condition. Given these shocking statistics it would be assumed that mental health resources are considered a priority when drawing up national health budgets, however, the sad reality is that a staggering 75 percent of people who live with a mental disorder in South Africa do not receive the care they need (Lund et al 2011).
There is a serious need to establish parity for mental health services across South Africa. Mental health has always fallen at the bottom of budget allocations, and only receives four percent of the national health budget (This is a disproportionately small portion of the budget). At the Mental Health Summit held in 2012, civil society as well as mental health care users advocated for a much needed mental health policy. The mental health policy framework was eventually developed and approved in Parliament in October 2013. However, in order to achieve successful implementation of the mental health policy, the mental health sector needs to receive a significant increase in funding.
Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, acknowledged the need for an increase in funding in a July 2013 ‘Saturday Star’ newspaper Article. Motsoaledi voiced “The need to boost investment in the country’s community-based mental health services and called for an infrastructure master plan to be developed and costed.”
The South African Federation for Mental Health challenges the national government and the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordon, to take the initiative and make mental health, which is a growing burden of disability, a national priority by increasing the budget allocated to the mental health sector. This will allow successful implementation of the mental health policy and make mental health services available to all South Africans.
- Bharti Patel is national director for the South African Federation for Mental Health. For more about the SAMFH, refer to www.safmh.org.za.