From an early age, 13-year-old Fatima suffered from anxiety.
As she got older, her mental health deteriorated so much that she began having severe panic attacks, which negatively impacted her schooling and led to her was being treated in a psychiatric hospital.
But the hospital experience didn’t make it any easier for the teenager, who had to share a ward with adults, which she found “scary”.
” Why is the doctor sending me to a hospital with adults… where people are tied up? I hate it here.”
At another South American healthcare facility, 15-year-old Andile, who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), required regular check-ups at a community clinic. oops and medication. But the pursuit of health services often meant he had to skip school and his mother had to take a day off to bring him to the clinic for each appointment.
He often didn’t get the help he needed needed and sometimes he left the clinic without seeing a psychiatrist, forcing him to return to the clinic. Sometimes his record was lost or the pharmacy staff took too long and he missed school.
These two teenagers are just a few of the millions of youth across the country who are living with mental health disorders and experiencing treatment gaps in the country’s healthcare system.
According to the latest edition of the SA Child Gauge – an annual publication from the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town that monitors progress towards realizing children’s rights – despite a significant number of young people who living with mental illness in South Africa, the majority go untreated and as a result are underdeveloped.
In South Africa, the treatment gap for children and adolescents is only about 90%, with one in ten children with a treatable mental disorder having access to medical care.
While there is no clear data on how many children with psychis mental disorders, a 2012 review found that almost 20% of children and children in Africa were above risk cut-offs for mental disorders and 10% were diagnosed with mental disorders.
The authors and child health specialists Simphiwe Simelane, Stella Mokitimi, Rene Nassen and Petrus de Vries argue that while South Africa has the most child and adolescent psychiatrists in Africa, there are now fewer than 60 and only 20 of these specialists work in the public sector.
As a result, children and families only have access to multidisciplinary children and adolescent psychiatric service teams in a handful of hospitals, mainly in major cities such as Cape Town, Johannesburg, eThekwini and Tshwane. Child and adolescent psychiatrists working in the private sector are also concentrated in these cities.
They argue that mental disorders in young people are not only stressful and impair their ability to function in everyday life, but often have lasting effects that up to persist into adulthood.
“It is estimated that half of adult mental illness begins before the age of 14, increasing the need for early detection and intervention to achieve the best possible outcomes. In addition, undertreated and undiagnosed children and adolescents with mental disorders may develop secondary or additional disorders, such as B. substance use or self-harm to cope with their symptoms.”
Not only do children receive treatment gaps without dedicated mental health services for them, but they are also burdened with their own parents’ mental health, which they do predisposed to poverty, family disorders, and social isolation.
The authors of the document say one in five children have a parent with a mental disorder.
“The impact of a persistent and disabling mental disorder on parents’ ability to support themselves and their children increases the likelihood that their children will grow up in poverty and housing problems, family breakdowns, limitations on social and leisure activities, and social isolation.
“They will are also more likely to be cared for, have poor communication skills, drop out of school, and continue to develop health and substance abuse problems.”
The common experience ening of the trauma from parents’ mental illness recurrence and hospitalization resulted in children “taking excessive responsibility at home, blaming themselves for their parents’ mental illness and living in silence with the stigma of the illness.” their parents.”
“Yet children and their parents receive little coordinated support, information or protection from healthcare professionals to address the challenges. ”
The authors say that extending therapeutic support to children and taking a family-centered approach to treating parents would go a long way in protecting children’s lives.
“Psychiatric professionals have a duty to ensure that their caregiver circle extends beyond their adult patients to actively promote the mental health, care and well-being of their children. This includes prevention and early interventions, including therapeutic counseling and parenting programs designed to improve family functioning and promote positive parenting.”
An ideal child and adolescent mental health team should include specialists such as children and adolescents include adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, child and adolescent psychiatric nurses, social workers and dedicated liaison professionals from the departments of basic education and social development.
They said preventive services should be mainly on Community level, such as schools and faith-based organizations, “aiming to foster resilience, positive coping skills and to create a supportive environment in which they can thrive”.
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