07 August 2015 Volume :3 Issue :36

Mental Health Symposium

Mental Health Symposium
(From left) PsySSA KZN Chairperson, Mr Karl Swain; Symposium chair, Mr Suntosh Pillay; invited speakers, Ms Amanda Smith, Dr Devi Rajab, Professor Kitty Uys, and Dr Sibongile Mashphu, and clinical psychologist, Dr Thirusha Naidu, and psychiatrist, Dr Suvira Ramlall.Staff members of UKZN’s College of Health Science co-hosted the inaugural multidisciplinary Durban Mental Health Symposium in July to commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month at King Dinuzulu Hospital Complex (KDHC).

Dr Suviral Ramlall, Head of Unit, Department of Psychiatry, KDHC, said: ‘July being Mental Health month was the official reason for us to host a meeting of mental health minds.’

According to Ramlall, mental health has for far too long been the Cinderella of South Africa’s healthcare system, even though it was well known that ‘there can be no health without mental health’.

Speakers discussed a variety of topics including the following:

•   Dignity in Communication - Professor Kitty Uys, Head of Department, Occupational Therapy, UKZN

•   Are Women Sicker than Men? Women and Mental Health - Dr Devi Rajab, Counselling/Educational Psychologist and writer

•   Living in an HIV Serodiscordant Relationship – Dr Sibongile Mashaphu, Specialist Psychiatrist and Lecturer

•   Who Decides? Practitioner and Service User Perspective - Specialist Psychiatric Nurse, Ms Amanda Smith, and mental health service user, Mrs Ann D’Unienville.

Uys discussed the importance of communication among children with disabilities and among old age patients with dementia. The presentation showed the importance of communication for both groups at different levels.

Uys said good communication was vital for dignified care. She examined different theories and models including the model of creative ability in occupational health; the validation theory in dementia and talking mats a low technology form of communication.

Rajab’s presentation elicited a lot questions from the participants. The presentation looked at who was more likely to develop a mental illness – men or women. She said insanity was more prevalent in women while gender differences in mental health were ignored by all healthcare providers.

Smith and D’Unienville did a joint presentation which investigated the involvement in patient care of mental health users. Smith believes mental health users should be encouraged to be active participants in patient care. ‘A collaboration between families and care givers is important,’ Smith said.  

Ramlall said although this was the first symposium of its kind, they planned to host it annually. The organisers also called on the participants to participate in the launch of Durban Mental Health Advocacy Group to be formed soon.

Nombuso Dlamini

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