South Africa


Fridolin Harms

Cite as

Committee: World Health Organization

Country: Republic of South Africa

Delegate: Fridolin Harms, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen


Topic A: “Addressing Issues of Mental Health in Areas of Conflict


After removing the bounding shackles of the apartheid system in 1994, South Africa took the chance to shape a mental health care system, regardless of one’s race and colour. When the government promulgated the “Mental Health Care Act 17” (MHCA) in 2004, it has been marked as one of the most progressive mental health legislations of its time. It enshrined the human rights of people with mental disorders and defined the primary health care to be the first contact of mental health. In line with the WHO recommendations South Africa went further by publishing the “National Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2013 – 2020” in 2013. Among other aspects, this policy lay its focus on district-based primary healthcare re-engineering, augmenting human resources for mental health and promoting mental health, just as preventing mental illness.


However, despite the groundbreaking reforms and the continuing endeavor to achieve the government’s goal of a “Long and Healthy life for all South Africans”, South Africa is challenged by a high prevalence of mental disorders. Following the South African Stress and Health (SASH) survey, approximately 16.5% of the adults have experienced a mood anxiety or substance use disorder. This is triggered and maintained by high levels of substance abuse, violence, injury and poverty, leading into a “vicious cycle”. The situation is complicated by the complex co-morbidity of mental illnesses and infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. While the adult prevalence of HIV in South Africa lays at 18.8% (biggest HIV epidemic worldwide), the life expectancy increased by 9.6 years between 2005 and 2014. This was mainly achieved by the massive expansion of antiretroviral treatment (ART). Nevertheless the malady remains the main cause of death.

Subscribe to the Delegate's Club to fully unlock this Position Paper.

You can search and browse the Position Paper Database and read abstracts for each paper. To get access to the full database and the full content of all Position Papers, get a Delegate's Club subscription Learn More

Subscribe Now!