Bipolar Disorder and the South African Public Health Sector

I’ve been journalling my experiences with bipolar and the South African public health sector here, with a hiatus recently, thanks to bipolar depression. I’ve now finished my six months free CBT as a case study, but I’ll still be seeing the trainee psychiatrist I refer to as shrink two for treatment. As things stand now, I’ve just had my fluoxetine increased to 60mg and olanzapine is at 15mg. I’m waiting for shrink two to discuss with her department head, whether or not I’m going to have ECT. Shrink one, back in the private health sector, reckons it’s the best option.

So I’m just waiting and it strikes me that waiting is exactly what the government health system is all about. It’s the same almost everywhere, I believe, the waiting lines are long. You arrive as early as you can and you queue. I’ve become accustomed to it to a certain point – an hour’s delay feels like absolutely nothing, but three hours feels like forever. I constantly try to remind myself that I’m still in the privileged segment of society, that the huge majority of mental health patients in South Africa aren’t receiving any treatment at all, but the truth is that I really hate it. As I’ve said before, I’ve got no complaints about the quality of care, it’s the waiting in horrible rooms crammed with people talking and sniffing and so on. I’m not phased by the manacled prisoners anymore and when there’s someone freaking out, I only feel anxious if they get too close.

Hopefully by my next post I’ll have an answer about ECT.


37 responses to “Bipolar Disorder and the South African Public Health Sector

  1. Sadly gaps in the system are widespread in many countries. I do hope you get the answers you need. I’m on your side. It’s just the 16,000kms that keep me from being by your side.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The waiting times can be a while here in the UK, but generally once you have an appointment the wait is minimum. Sorry to see you are so low. Disappointment can fuel an anger that fuels the depression, I find anyway. I get so outraged by something then feel utterly undeserving and the conflict between those poles intensifies the sadness. It’s Shit but we know it will pass, in time…..So difficult to subjectively assimilate though. Have you tried ECT before? I’ve seen it work well with some folk, but it does affect the memory. How has the CBT gone? Is there anything that could be practiced more frequently? Stay strong! Thinking of you and willing the depression away!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Hi! I’m very curious as to know HOW one goes about getting Mental Health treatment from the public health sectors in South Africa? I do recall the horrendous waiting times in the awful conditions, but that is simply how SA is run. If anyone has any idea and could shed some insight, please let me know.
    This has been an interesting read, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was referred by my shrink in private practice, then had to go open a folder (register) and after that, just the waits and conditions that you already know about.


      • So you need to have access to private health care first before you can be treated by government health care? And once you are able to make us of the Public Health sector (besides the awful waiting times and conditions), what is the quality of the medication -are they generic? And how much does it cost you, roughly, to be treated each month?
        I know I have bombarded you with questions but I really am interested to know =) Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

        • No, anyone can go, I was just telling you my route. The meds are generic and free. It doesn’t cost me anything. I’m more than happy to answer questions, thanks lots for your interest. The crappy thing is that an estimated 75% of mentally ill people in SA receive no treatment at all.


          • Yes, thanks for telling me your route. I appreciate it, because I really have started thinking I may need to see a professional (one of the 75% receiving no official treatment) but it’s so costly. Generic meds are fine, they do the same job… Where do you receive psych treatment? At a government hospital?

            Liked by 1 person

  4. You can feel lucky that you receive treatment and be upset by the wait times and conditions. I think that is just normal. No one wants to wait in rooms where the conditions are poor to try to get themselves treatment to feel happier. It makes no sense.

    My next treatment is going to be Lithium and if that doesn’t work I’m going to seriously consider ECT. If you can, keep us posted on how that goes.

    It’s really good to “see” you again Blah. I’ve missed you.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s waiting here too. But I have to admit, the waiting rooms are different than here, at least in public buildings. I really hope ECT will be a breakthrough for you. I’m very interested in your experience with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t know where I’ve been or where you’ve been or if we’ve just been MIA at different times, but it certainly is good to read you again. Following your progress closely and hoping/praying for only good outcomes. And PS: I’m in Canada where we have a public health care system (not even an option for private, I do believe ) and the wait times to see a shrink are easily up to 1 year…thus the reason I am staying with mine who is about 80 years old and who still doesn’t know my name…pretty sure he doesn’t know what he’s doing sitting in that office all day. I think someone guides him in there at the beginning of the day and guides him back out at the end. Again so glad to catch up with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t blogged properly in a couple of months, too depressed. Thanks for the lovely comment, it’s good to hear from you again. Sorry your shrink is such a waste of space.


  7. Sorry to hear you had bipolar depression; I know it sucks! It must be quite frustrating dealing with all that waiting. I hope they find a treatment that works for you. Best wishes :)


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