Mediclinic Legae’s new mental healthcare centre is the first specialist unit to provide mental healthcare treatments that address the unique needs of the surrounding communities.

Poor mental health is a growing problem in South Africa that has become particularly clear in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a study conducted at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2021, more than one in four participants reported feeling depressed. The need for effective mental healthcare treatment covers all South African communities, emphasises Dr Thabo Mogotlane, a psychiatrist at Mediclinic Legae’s new mental healthcare centre. But the services offered by Mediclinic Legae Mental Health Services, which services Mabopane, Soshanguve and Ga-Rankuwa, are especially vital given social conditions in these communities.

Specialist mental healthcare treatment

Dr Mogotlane says mental illness is especially prevalent in impoverished areas, like the unit’s catchment area. This is understandable, since crime tends to be higher in areas where poverty and unemployment are rife. As a result, there may be a higher prevalence of people suffering post-traumatic stress, for example. Substance addiction is also common in such areas. “In fact, mental illness goes hand in hand with poverty,” Dr Mogotlane adds. “Poverty exacerbates any mental illness, like depression or anxiety, while these conditions often push people into poverty. Often, depressed people find it difficult to hold down a job, for example.”

Left to right: Kelebogile Mohl, Professional Nurse Mental Health Unit; Elsie Maname, Unit Manager Maternity Unit;
Kate Mokgethi, Patient Scheduling Clerk Admin and Ntokozo Zoko, Mental Health Unit manager.
Left to right: Nthabeleng Kumalo, Finance Admin Manager; Diane Maleta, Finance Officer; Letlotlo Molatlhegi, Patient Experience Manager and Alice Mahowa, Finance Admin Clerk.

In line with these trends, residents of Mabopane, Soshanguve and Ga-Rankuwa are experiencing especially high levels of psycho-social distress, he says. But until now there has been no facility close by to help people suffering from mental illness. This has meant patients requiring treatment have had to travel to a mental healthcare centre elsewhere to receive appropriate treatment.

All of this changed with the opening of Mediclinic Legae Mental Health Services on 7 August.

Collaborative approach

Dr Mogotlane explains that the mental healthcare centre treats voluntary patients suffering from conditions like anxiety and depression, as well as other mental illnesses. To ensure they receive the best possible treatment, the unit has gathered a multidisciplinary team comprising psychiatrists, psychotherapists, physiotherapists, dietitians, and occupational therapists.

The team also includes social workers trained to work with patients’ families and help them integrate into the community after treatment to reduce the risk of a relapse.

“Each member of the team has a vital role to play, and we all work together very closely,” Dr Mogotlane says. “For example, our occupational therapists and psychologists assess all patients to determine whether they can cope with the demands of a work or family environment. Similarly, our psychiatrists collaborate with psychologists, because the effectiveness of medication increases from around 45% of patients to more than 80% when combined with psychotherapy.”

The new, multidisciplinary Mediclinic Legae Mental Health Services.
Mr Thabiso Bale, Hospital General Manager at
Mediclinic Legae Mental Health Services.

Cultural context

Each specialist at Mediclinic Legae Mental Health Services has been appointed because of their in-depth understanding of the conditions affecting community members, and their context. Dr Mogotlane is a case in point: as a psychiatrist with a special interest in working with children as well as addiction issues and depression, his experience ensures he is well placed to answer the unique needs of the community, where these conditions are rife.

His attention to and understanding of cultural sensitivities and beliefs makes his approach especially effective. For example, he frequently works with patients who have been referred by traditional healers. “I always aim to respect people’s beliefs, and to accommodate them. This is especially important in a centre that services a community such as our own,” he says.

Dr Mogotlane is confident that the holistic and comprehensive range of services provided by Mediclinic Legae Mental Health Services – from psychiatric assessments to therapies and counselling – will make a significant difference to the lives of people in the community. “So many of us are struggling with issues related to mental healthcare. Now, for the first time, we can offer effective mental healthcare treatment for a community that is sorely in need.”

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