Original Research

The experiences and perceptions of mental health service provision at a primary health centre in the Eastern Cape

Duane Booysen, Phumeza Mahe-Poyo, Rosemary Grant
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 27 | a1641 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v27i0.1641 | © 2021 Duane Booysen, Phumeza Mahe-Poyo, Rosemary Grant | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 October 2020 | Published: 13 August 2021

About the author(s)

Duane Booysen, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
Phumeza Mahe-Poyo, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
Rosemary Grant, Private Consultant, Grahamstown, South Africa


Background: Since 1994, the South African healthcare system has undergone several changes to meet the needs of contemporary South Africa. Yet the state of mental healthcare, especially in low-resource areas, remains in a precarious state.

Aim: This study aimed to explore how persons diagnosed with a mental disorder experience and perceive mental health services in a low-resource community in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Setting: The study was conducted at a primary care clinic in a low resource community setting in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Method: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight participants diagnosed with mental illness who had been accessing treatment for at least the past 6 months from a primary health clinic. Thematic analysis was used to analyse and identify pertinent themes.

Results: The following themes emerged from the data: (1) perceptions of mental disorders – role of culture, (2) experiences of having mental disorders – loss of employment, (3) problem of stigma – social rejection and labelling, (4) experience of distress – sadness and frustration and (5) challenges in accessing treatment – transport fee and shortage of staff.

Conclusion: This study yielded several lived experiences and perceptions in relation to participants’ feelings, opinions and interpretations of persons living with mental disorders and accessing mental health treatment in their local context. Future interventions should consider provision of more extensive professional help in the form of counsellors and social workers at the clinics, more efficient service delivery and future interventions regarding stigma should incorporate community members into the learning process.


mental disorder; patients experience and perceptions; primary healthcare; service provision; qualitative; low research setting


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