What is it about?

COVID-19 has brought to the fore the mental health crisis that South Africans are facing. There is a call for a re-structured and decolonized model of mental health care. This essay explores the ways that arts therapies are contributing to the development of an African-oriented model of care.

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Why is it important?

There is a dire lack of mental health services and a very small number of practitioners, facing an overwhelming need for psychosocial support in South Africa.


The traditional Western model of mental health care is not the best fit for an African context. There is a risk of pathologizing experiences that can also be seen as spiritual. Psychosocial group support needs to take precedence over individual clinical support as it reflects more aptly the African value system of collectivism.

Marlize Swanepoel

This article lays the foundation of over 10 years of learning and unlearning as a Western-trained practitioner working in an African context. The pandemic has highlighted the relevance and acute need of a radical re-structuring of how mental healthcare services are approached and delivered in my country. I hope with this article, to join the conversation of the role of the arts in developing a community model of mental healthcare and an exploration of Arts for Health practice in the Southern Hemisphere.

Marlize Swanepoel

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: A collective breath: Dreaming into a new model of mental healthcare, Drama Therapy Review, October 2020, Intellect,
DOI: 10.1386/dtr_00052_1.
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