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Arts in Conversation Series: Arts, mental health and human rights

When: Thursday, 03 May 2018 - Thursday, 03 May 2018
Where: Braamfontein Campus East
eMakhaya Theatre, 19th Floor, University Corner
Start time:12:15

The life Esidimeni Case and the role of the media.

Drama for Life presents the Arts in Conversation Series.

A conversation with Suzanne Venter facilitated by Leane Meiring. Venter is a senior investigative journalist at Rapport and winner of the prestigious Taco Kuiper prize for investigative journalism. Her work in the weekly Sunday newspaper inevitably resulted in an official inquiry by the health ombudsman and pushed the plight of psychiatric patients onto the national agenda after being severely neglected by the government.

About the Drama for Life Arts in Conversation Series

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community” (WHO, 2014). This definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” highlights the intersectional relationship between mental health and human rights (WHO, 2014). It stresses the need to further investigate the connection in the academic sphere, to actively promote national debate around the fact that a serious neglect of mental health is present despite the protective policies and legislative frameworks offered by our constitution and the Mental Health Care Act of 2002.

With at least 141 psychiatric patients dead after being moved from the Life Esidimeni (meaning place of dignity) facility to various NGOs in Gauteng, it is clear that as South Africans we are witnessing a humanitarian crisis brought on by serious human rights violations of vulnerable groups living with psychosocial disabilities. This human tragedy has been called ‘the greatest human rights violation committed by the state since the dawn of our democracy’. In order for the healing processes to take root, deepen and become transformative, our social relationships, systems and structures have to change” (Nebe, 2016: 3-4). Our psychosocial condition is one of dislocation, which regardless of race or class, comes out of a socially constructed reality, based on the betrayal of the human spirit…In order for us to bring about a genuine healing in South Africa, we have to re-think our professions in terms of mental healthcare (Vetten, 2005). Through these conversations “Drama for Life aims to bring down the imagined binary walls that exist between the personal and the political, the psychological and the sociological” (Nebe, 2016: 5).


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