Incorporating Ubuntu in mental health can humanise it and make sufferers seek help – expert

A researcher says implementing the centuries-old values of Ubuntu into the mental healthcare system can humanise the mental healthcare system.

Statistics surrounding the mental healthcare landscape in South Africa were concerning as they suggested the state of mental health in the country appeared to have worsened, according to Dr Fikile Mnisi.

While she noted an improvement in legislation, statistics have continued to grow.

“I thought, what is a moral philosophical theory that could work in South Africa? The one that we can implement within the healthcare system; and this would be Ubuntu.”

Mnisi continued:

In its simplicity, Ubuntu means humaneness or humanity. So, when we can bring the values of Ubuntu into mental healthcare, individuals can see themselves, and we can address the issues around stigmatisation.

She was speaking during a webinar hosted by the Gauteng SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) under the theme: Dignified Care for Mental Health users on Thursday.

News24 earlier reported that experts said mental healthcare was not generally recognised in South Africa’s healthcare system compared to physical ailments.

An associate professor in psychology at the University of Witwatersrand, Malose Langa, previously said the issue could be attributed to, among other things, stigma.

Another thing, he added, was that many people facing mental health difficulties were invisible, meaning it was different in the sense that it did not always present itself in the form of a physical injury.

South Africa is still haunted by the tragic example of Life Esidimeni that saw 144 psychiatric patients die, many of them from starvation and neglect after being transferred from the Gauteng health facility due to the provincial health department cancelling its contract to save money, News24 reported.

This tragedy sparked calls for a further investigation, not only into the circumstances of these events but also the broader mental healthcare system in the country.

report by the SAHRC made several findings, including there was a considerable under-investment in mental health by the government, News24 reported.

Giving mental health a human face

Mnisi said incorporating Ubuntu into mental health would give it a human face so people could feel they were seen.


“I don’t mean putting faces of individuals [who are living with mental health difficulties] as an advertisement. What I mean by this is that if we find values, ethical values or moral theory, that will be able to bring about a human face to this sickness in our society to make it easier for individuals to recognise themselves, and know that they are seen and will be cared for and get the help they need.”

She added through Ubuntu [I am because you are] in essence, translated to, “I am able to also take care of you because I would be taking care of myself through you”.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

scroll to top