On March 19, 2018, Reverend Joseph Maboe and Andrew Peterson, victims of the Esidimeni life family, hug each other after retired Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke released the arbitration findings in Johannesburg over the tragedy. (Photo by Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla)
In memory of the 144 people who died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy, Section27 and the South African Anxiety and Depression Group have launched a memorial and advocacy website.
Cassey Chambers, director of operations for the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), wrote in a recent Citizen Maverick guest editorial: “Experts around the world have called the mental health crisis a ‘second pandemic’, and our country still does not have a plan or strategy to help mitigate the impact on mental health in the future.”
Thursday, May 20, was the first global day of action for mental health, an initiative to ensure global access to mental health care. Simultaneously, Sadag and Section27 launched the Life Esidimeni Memorial website at a virtual event.
“We can never forget, because we can never let this happen again,” Ms. Chambers said in her opening remarks.
It has been five years since 144 mental health care users in Gauteng died after being transferred en masse from the Life Esidimeni psychiatric facility to NGOs scattered around the province – several of which had been fraudulently approved.
Many died of torture, starvation, injury and neglect. In 2018, the families of the victims were awarded R 2 million each in compensation after an arbitration process led by retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, but relatives and NGOs believe that steps towards responsibility and transformation of South Africa’s mental health system has not been taken. .
“The goal is to change the way mental health is treated in South Africa,” Christine Nxumalo, whose sister Virginia Machpelah died, at the age of 50, told the NGO Precious Angels after being moved from Life Esidimeni.
Writer and media specialist Harriet Perlman said the website, which took two years to produce, is both a memorial to the victims and an advocacy project.
“The website tries to capture what happened by building a story with words and pictures,” she said.
In addition to telling the story of the tragedy and publishing the health ombudsman investigation in the dead and the arbitration hearings, the site offers interviews with the families of the victims, photographs and the process of seeking justice for the 144 dead.
The website also allows the public to report complaints and problems in mental health facilities as well as to seek help.
Visit the website here.
“People spoke of the desperate months spent looking for their loved ones. Daniel and Lydia Maretele spent almost a year looking for Daniel’s sister, Maria. Daniel worked as a carpenter and Lydia as a domestic worker and both lost their jobs during this time. When they finally found her, she was dead and had already been buried, ”Perlman said.
A feature film about the tragedy is being written and will be directed by acclaimed South African screenwriter and director Craig Freimond. It is due for release in 2022, depending on whether funding can be obtained.
An official investigation into the deaths begins July 19 at the High Court of North Gauteng.
Sasha Stevenson, a Section 27 lawyer, said the families of the victims have requested three levels of accountability since the tragedy: state liability, professional liability – refer the medical professionals involved to their regulatory bodies for disciplinary action – and criminal liability.
“The inquest is not a criminal trial, but it is a way for a judge or magistrate to determine the legal cause of death,” Stevenson said.
“This is an opportunity for the judge to review all the evidence and indicate whether a prosecution should follow.”
Section 27 will represent 35 families during the survey.
Statistics show that one in three South Africans have or will suffer from a mental health problem at some point in their life. Meanwhile, only one in 10 South Africans with a mental health problem has access to treatment.
A recent Citizen Maverick report by Estelle Ellis reported an increasing number of overdose cases in Nelson Mandela Bay, most of the incidents involving prescription drugs and pain relievers.
The stigma against people with mental illness prevents them from getting “proper treatment,” Nxumalo said.
“We need to refer people and find information on how to help a family member.”
In December 2020, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) reported to Parliament on the state of mental health care and residential facilities. Key findings included the government’s underinvestment in mental health care, gaps in access to treatment in rural areas, and gross human rights violations within the system. DM / MC
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This notice was published: 2021-05-20 20:32:08