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DENOSA statement on International Mental Health Awareness Day: Many health professionals are also patients dying in silence… 

Media statement 

Thursday, 10 October 2019 


As today, 10 October, is commemorated as International Mental Health Awareness Day, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) would like to highlight the gloomy picture of the poor state of Mental Healthcare for South Africa as a country with more than 17 million people suffering from one form of mental illness or another, including health professionals themselves. 

More concerning for DENOSA is that there are poor systems in place to deal with what has become increasing illness for South Africans, many of whom are dying in silence and further drowning in their own thoughts with little or no intervention from the healthcare system. 

In Mpumalanga province, for example, there is not a single mental health institution that should be a shelter to accommodate patients suffering from mental health illnesses. Patients with mental illnesses get cared for in provinces like Gauteng, thus indicating lack of will and urgency in caring for such patients. Student nurses in Mpumalanga get their training on Psychiatry in KwaZulu-Natal. 

And recently, there have been gruesome incidents of killings in the province: a mother killed her four children; a man killing his mother, and a man killed women and buried them in shallow graves. 

It has taken Northern Cape over ten years to build, complete and open a mental health institution of its own in Kimberley. Ten years! 

Whilst most patients suffer from this condition, the healthcare system itself is producing its own victims from amongst healthcare practitioners. Their work exposes them to traumatic experiences every day with no support structure in the form of debriefing sessions. Many nurses who work in trauma and emergency units of hospitals, because they attend to patients with gunshots and stab wounds daily, develop symptoms of depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illnesses, as these compound to their already many personal stresses.  

Whereas in the past there used to be counselling services for health workers at each institution to help them cope with the stressful work, such assistance is no longer there and they are expected to act normally even after they have experienced multiple loss of patients. This develops and grows into something bigger and more serious. As a result, they find ways of taking their frustrations out by ventilating at wrong avenues like patients, doing so unconsciously.  

DENOSA strongly suggests that counselling and debriefing sessions be brought back at each healthcare facility as a matter of urgency, and that innovative ways of providing assistance to health professionals through technology be prioritized.  

Furthermore, government in provinces must realise and appreciate that, for them to attract healthcare specialists in their health facilities, they need to upgrade their standard so that each province has at least one tertiary healthcare institution which will support such specialists with their research work that contributes towards enriching the body of knowledge in health.    

The absence of such solutions-based healthcare service creates a domino-effect whereby the existing challenges create even more patients, even in the form of healthcare professionals, who suffer from various forms of mental illness due to working under depressing conditions.


Issued by the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) 

For more information, contact: 

Cassim Lekhoathi, DENOSA Acting General Secretary

Mobile: 082 328 9671 


Simon Hlungwani, DENOSA President

Mobile: 082 328 9635 


Facebook: DENOSA National Page


Instagram: @denosa_official