Relapse among MHCUs after a Short-Term Admission in an Acute Psychiatric Unit: Primary Caregivers’ Perspective

Nelson Raluthaga, Hilda N. Shilubane*, Mygirl Pearl Lowane

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


South Africa has taken initiative to strengthen its mental health system, by improving the Mental Health Care Act 17 of 2002 which proclaims that mental healthcare users (MHCUs) can be treated in communities and homes. Due to short-term hospitalisations for acute MHCUs and advocacy for community-based care, families play a significant role in providing care to severe mental healthcare users. The objective of the study was to explore primary caregivers’ perspective regarding the relapse of MHCUs following a short-term admission in acute psychiatric units. A qualitative explorative design was used. In-depth individual interviews were conducted with 18 primary caregivers whose family members were readmitted to four hospitals with units designated for acute MHCUs in Limpopo. NVivo computer software version 11 was used to analyse data. The findings are that MHCUs deny the mental health condition. Mental illness is considered a short illness that can be cured, which shows misconceptions about self-mental health conditions. Refusal of direct observed treatment support also emerged; hence, it is difficult for caregivers to identify if the patient is taking the correct doses or not taking the medication at all. Perceived wrong beliefs about mental illness can affect the patient’s desire to seek proper management and it can be damaging in many ways. Drugs and alcohol abuse makes MHCUs display disruptive behaviours and contribute to treatment non-adherence resulting in caregivers becoming reluctant to be around them. In conclusion, mixing traditional and faith-based mental healthcare practices as reported by primary caregivers can mean that tailor-fabricated culture-specific mental healthcare is required.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1384
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • acute mental health
  • acute psychiatric unit
  • deinstitutionalization
  • primary caregiver
  • relapse


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