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Soc Sci Med. 1997 Nov;45(10):1493-501.

Developing community mental health services for children in South Africa.

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  • 1University of Natal Medical School, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.


As a result of South Africa's Apartheid history, mental health care for black people, especially in rural areas, has been grossly inadequate and even non-existent in many areas. Children have been severely neglected in this regard. This paper describes an attempt by clinical psychologists to develop a community intervention programme for children with emotional problems. From their hospital base the authors set out, on a monthly basis, to outlying areas up to 250 km away to (1) train primary care nurses and other personnel in the basic techniques of identifying and dealing with uncomplicated psychological problems of childhood, and (2) render consultations to psychologically disturbed children. The paper argues the need to provide primary care workers with mental health skills and thus integrate childhood mental health care into the primary care structure. Such a move could make mental health care accessible to all inhabitants, thus deviating from the policies of the past.

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