Select Page

October has been declared Mental Health Awareness Month in South Africa with the objective of not only educating the public about mental health but also to reduce the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness often face. According to World Health Report 2001: Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope. Geneva (WHO), mental disorders occur at high rates in all countries of the world.  Approximately 450 million people worldwide suffer from mental or behavioural disorders. These disorders are especially prevalent in prison populations, added WHO.

WHO, further explains that the disproportionately high rate of mental disorders in prisons is related to a widespread misconception that all people with mental disorders are a danger to the public. So this suggests people are being locked up instead of being treated. There is also a general intolerance by many societies to difficult or disturbing behavior and a failure to promote treatment. Because mental health in prison is an issue that is hardly ever spoken about, CJN pitched the story idea to Linda Thahane. She is the host of “Legal Cocktails” which airs on Saturday on Thetha FM. CJN’s aim is to get people in and around Orange Farm to talk about mental health in prison. During the show, one of the presenters Richard Maphokwane dispelled the myth around mental disorders in prison.

He said that according to a study done in 2013/2014, 3755 out of a population of 15000 inmates were mentally disturbed. Many of these disorders may be present before admission to prison and may be further exacerbated by the stress of imprisonment or they may have been overlooked by the counselor in charge of the inmate’s evaluation.According to World Health Report 2001: Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope. Geneva, World Health Organization, prisons are bad for mental health There are factors in many prisons that have negative effects on mental health, including overcrowding, various forms of violence, enforced solitude or conversely, lack of privacy, lack of meaningful activity, isolation from social networks, insecurity about future prospects and inadequate health services, especially mental health services, in prisons.  However, mental disorders may also develop during imprisonment itself as a consequence of prevailing conditions and also possibly due to torture or other human rights violations.  The increased risk of suicide in prisons (often related to depression) is, unfortunately, one common manifestation of the cumulative effects of these factors. Listen to Linda Thahane, under the guidance of CJN, talking on Thetha FM about mental health in prison…