Emergency response for psychological crisis


Mental illness is rife in South Africa, with an estimated 20% of South Africans suffering from some form of mental illness. While the mental state of South Africans is dire, it is still an issue that carries a huge amount of stigma , and this may cause people to keep their situation quiet instead of seeking help. Statistics point to a steady escalation in the global incidence of mental illness, and consequently, the number of tragedies associated with mental health.

The recent deaths of high profile celebs from suicide and drug-related death, including Robin Williams, Peaches Geldof, Alexander McQueen, Whitney Houston and Heath Ledger, highlight the urgency and importance for adequate mental health care as well as proper resources. It is for this very reason that Akeso Psychiatric Clinics have launched an emergency response for psychological crisis and emergency vehicles to help address that high level of mental illness related crisis in the South African context. “Our Psychiatric Intervention Response Unit vehicle is manned by qualified paramedics who are trained to assess and manage the psychological state of the patient,” says Akeso spokesperson, Sandy Lewis.

By dialing the number 0861 HELP US (4357 87), callers can access immediate telephonic support and, based on the counselor’s assessment of the situation, if the caller is in crisis, the intervention vehicle will be dispatched. Once on the scene and after the patient has been safely contained by the paramedics, the intervention vehicle will transport the patient to an appropriate facility, private or public, to undergo treatment.

The Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal response vehicles have been operating for a while and to date, have received call-outs for cases involving domestic violence, substance abuse, geriatric patients, patients experiencing a manic mood disorder episode, patients threatening suicide, among others.

These desperate calls for help point to the state of SA’s mental health care. And the picture is grim:

– 20% of South Africans suffer from some form of mental illness. About 75% of these do not have access to to the care they need to manage their disorder

– 22 people commit suicide in South Africa every single day

– 220 people attempt suicide daily in South Africa

– 43.7% of those with HIV/AIDS have a mental health condition

РAccording to a recent  survey, South Africa ranked second highest for substance abuse disorders compared to 14 other countries

– The countries official crime rates reveal that 45 murders, 182 acts of sexual abuse, 511 accounts of serious assault and 473 accounts of common assault occur every day in South Africa. And these are just the cases that are reported, with more going unreported than those that are.

Written by Samantha Parrish