Demand better mental health services for our children

Millions of children around the country are struggling with their mental health, yet only 1 in every 10 children with a mental disorder is able to access care.

We, therefore, call on the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, to close the treatment gap and prioritise child and adolescent mental health services. This includes allocating the resources needed to give effect to the 2003 National Policy Guidelines for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) and upholding the Department’s commitments to:

1. Radically increase the number of facilities offering CAMH services

2. Ensure these services are private, confidential and open at times that work for children and adolescents

3. Involve young people in the design of child- and adolescent-friendly services

4. Develop a set of children and adolescent mental health service standards to facilitate monitoring and evaluation

5. Invest in the training, supervision and support of health workers at primary levels of care so that they can screen and treat children with common mental disorders and refer those requiring more specialised care

6. Scale up specialized training of child psychiatrists, child psychiatric nurses and psychologists and social workers

7. Establish provincial leadership and ringfenced budgets to drive the implementation of CAMH services on the ground.

These failures speak to the systemic neglect and under-resourcing of CAMH services and constitute a violation of children’s rights to dignity, equality and quality health care – and their right to protection from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation.