Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has cautioned against an increasing trend of referring accused in criminal cases for mental observation.
He says there is an explosion of mental health care locally and abroad and lawyers are taking advantage of this to get their clients referred.
Motsoaledi says this has led to a huge backlog of criminally accused people waiting for mental observation.
He says the criminal justice system is also stuck because of this issue of mental health.
“There is a new phenomena of lawyers who are defending criminally accused then referring them for mental observation. It’s happening almost every day, it’s becoming standard now.”
“There are 1400 criminally accused who are languishing in our mental health institutions waiting for mental health assessment. I’m quite sure that many of them are just criminals but they’ve taken space for mentally ill patients,” says Motsoaledi.
Motsoaledi says there are currently 700 psychiatrists in the country, with 75% of them in the private sector. He says his department will soon issue a contract to hire private psychiatrists and psychologists to deal with this backlog and clear the system for mentally ill patients.
He says: “We will be issuing a contract under NHI projects because NHI is not yet a law but it has got projects to hire 51 psychiatrists in the private sector and 72 psychologists to go and clear the backlog so that our mental health institutions can go on admitting real mentally ill patients not criminals who want to hide behind the issue of mental health.”