Home Institution

Columbia University

Publication Date

Spring 2017

Program Name

South Africa: Social and Political Transformation


The purpose of this research project is to investigate solutions to the so-called ‘mental health treatment gap’. The need for scholarship in this area is underscored by the recent tragedy in the Gauteng province, which has brought the neglect of the mental health sector into the public eye. Through semi-structured interviews with six key stakeholders in the fields of mental health and health policy this project seeks to better understand the causes of the mental health treatment gap and the impact National Health Insurance (NHI) rollout may have on access to quality mental healthcare. Sub-themes explored include: the integration of mental healthcare with primary healthcare, participatory policymaking, the role of stigma, private sector buy-in to the public mental health sector, and the effect of the Life Esidimeni tragedy on national discourse around mental health. In their interviews, participants identified unique challenges facing the sector due to the widespread stigmatization of mental illness and its consistent neglect by government and funders. Although they express serious concerns about NHI’s chance of success in the near future, participants pointed to the integration of mental health services with chronic care, improved management, and education campaigns as improvements which can be made to the sector in the near future, regardless of policy change.


African Languages and Societies | Health Services Administration | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Public Health


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