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Open Access Research article

Barriers to the participation of people with psychosocial disability in mental health policy development in South Africa: a qualitative study of perspectives of policy makers, professionals, religious leaders and academics

Sharon Kleintjes1*, Crick Lund1 and Leslie Swartz2

Author Affiliations

1 Alan J. Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health, Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, Valkenberg Hospital, Observatory, Cape Town, 7935, South Africa

2 Alan J. Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health, Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

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BMC International Health and Human Rights 2013, 13:17  doi:10.1186/1472-698X-13-17

Published: 11 March 2013

Abstract

Background

This paper outlines stakeholder views on environmental barriers that prevent people who live with psychosocial disability from participating in mental health policy development in South Africa.

Method

Fifty-six semi-structured interviews with national, provincial and local South African mental health stakeholders were conducted between August 2006 and August 2009. Respondents included public sector policy makers, professional regulatory council representatives, and representatives from non-profit organisations (NPOs), disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), mental health interest groups, religious organisations, professional associations, universities and research institutions.

Results

Respondents identified three main environmental barriers to participation in policy development: (a) stigmatization and low priority of mental health, (b) poverty, and (c) ineffective recovery and community supports.

Conclusion

A number of attitudes, practices and structures undermine the equal participation of South Africans with psychosocial disability in society. A human rights paradigm and multi-system approach is required to enable full social engagement by people with psychosocial disability, including their involvement in policy development.

Keywords:
Psychosocial disability; Rights; Participation barriers; Policy development; South Africa