This National Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2013-2020 marks an important milestone in our ongoing efforts to transform health in this country. In line with the values and principles of the Alma Ata Declaration we reassert here the principle that mental health is an integral element of health and that improved mental health is fundamental to achieving government’s goal of a “Long and Healthy life for all South Africans”.
While reports show that there has been good progress made in enacting and implementing mental health legislation and policy since 1994, many challenges that require our intervention still remain. These include continuing high prevalence of mental disorders (linked to social determinants such as poverty, unemployment, violence, substance abuse and other adversities that increases the vulnerability of South Africans to mental disorders); high co-morbidity between mental and other diseases; a substantial gap between demand and supply of mental health services; inequity of services and mental health system weaknesses.
This Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2013-2020 was developed through an extensive consultation process with relevant stakeholders. All nine Provinces held summits to review the state of mental health and mental health services in their province, to identify best practices and to generate a roadmap for improving mental health. These consultations culminated in a national mental health summit where a draft of this Policy Framework was discussed and a declaration (The Ekurhuleni Declaration on Mental Health April 2012) was adopted.
The Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2013-2020 identifies key activities that are considered catalytic to further transforming mental health services and ensuring that quality mental health services are accessible, equitable, comprehensive and are integrated at all levels of the health system, in line with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations. The contents are consistent with key activities that form part of broader health services transformation process that are currently being implemented in South Africa including the reengineering of primary health care, implementation of national health insurance, human resource development and infrastructure revitalization. In addition it is recognized that in order to achieve mental well being of the nation, sectors in the socioeconomic, political and health spheres must work together to implement multidimensional interventions. Civic organizations, non-governmental organizations, labour, employers, faith based organizations, and traditional healers are all identified as partners to achieve this ambitious plan.
Our aspiration for “a Long and Healthy life” requires us to invest in mental health so that we not only reduce the substantial burden of untreated mental disorders, but we reach levels of mental health that are higher than the mere absence of disease or infirmity. Good mental health will no doubt contribute substantially to our social and economic development.
On behalf of all South Africans, I extend our heartfelt appreciation to the efforts of all those that played a critical role in developing the Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2013-2020. The work has just begun. I call upon all to work with us to realize this visionary policy and plan.