A changed climate for mental health care delivery in South Africa

Division of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
African Journal of Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 0.73). 06/2009; 12(2):157-65. DOI: 10.4314/ajpsy.v12i2.43734
Source: PubMed


Traditional health practice was recently mainstreamed in South Africa by the promulgation of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act, No. 35 of 2004. Due to the extent of integration of mental health in the legal definition of traditional health practice, promulgation of this Act also has significant implications for mental health care delivery. This paper explored the documented interface of traditional health practice with mental health care in South Africa over the past almost 50 years.
A preliminary overview of health literature was done on formal mental health care and traditional alternatives in South Africa since the 1950's. Important themes were identified as first step in a qualitative approach to identify concepts.
The search yielded 143 references, between 1958 and 2004, from articles, case reports, scientific letter, theses and chapters in books. A cross section of 56 references was selected for inclusion in this review of the material.
The documentation on the interface between the two parallel systems contribute to establish a context against which the promulgation of the legislation to formally integrate and regulate African traditional health practice in South Africa can be considered. South African policy makers may now have ensured that a multi-faceted, multi-cultural and multi-cosmological context for health and mental health care delivery has come to pass. To health administrators, though, the inclusion of traditional healers into the formal public health system and mental health may still prove to be too costly to implement.

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