"The Shackles Of Mental Disability"
July 20, 2004
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA--A recent edition of Independent Online featured a look at treatment of people deemed to have mental disabilities in South Africa.
According to the article, an emphasis on AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis programs, has left little funding for government programs and non-profit agencies to serve the more than five million South Africans with mental disabilities.
That has left a treatment gap that a number of alternatives have tried to fill. People with mental disabilities are being forced by their families into settings in which they are confined to tiny living quarters, chained or shackled for hours on end, and provided little or no medication to deal with mental illnesses.
Some of these "treatments" include forms of torture, such as forcing a person to vomit "demons" by drinking large amounts of "holy water".
While these acts have been condemned by international human rights organizations, mental health officials say it will take a monumental change in laws, community education and funding to improve the situation for people with mental disabilities.
"We're nowhere near the equal rights written into our constitution -- due to ignorance," said Ruth Rensburg, who is with Central Gauteng Mental Health. "The reduction of beds in psychiatric hospitals and a proclaimed government move towards rehabilitation won't improve the situation as long as communities lack structures to embrace people with mental disorders."
"The shackles of mental disability" (Independent Online)