The family of a mental health patient who took his own life at Hayani Psychiatric Hospital in Limpopo said all the 28-year-old wanted was to go home, but his condition prevented that.  

Fhulufhelo Mulaudzi, 28, from Mdabula village outside Thohoyandou went missing last Tuesday. Four days later, on Saturday, his body was found hanging inside one of the service ducts at the hospital.

Attempts to find out if the hospital had security cameras that could have helped locate Mulaudzi were unsuccessful. It’s also unclear how long it took staff to realise he was missing. 

Phathutshedzo Nemukula told Health-e News her nephew was admitted to the facility in 2015 after several incidents of violence.

“My nephew was born a healthy child who was friendly with everyone at home and in the community. But everything changed when he started using all kinds of drugs, including glue. We believe the drugs he was smoking might have triggered his mental illness,” said Nemukula.

Family hoped he would return home

She said when they were told he was missing, they never expected to get a call saying he had taken his own life. 

Nemukula said  Mulaudzi had been in and out of the hospital since 2015. But his drug consumption would resume whenever he was released, which worsened his condition. And he would have to return to the hospital.

“He would say he wanted to go home but was in no condition to be discharged. We hoped he would get better and be reunited with us one day. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be,” said Nemukula.

Rejection of mental healthcare users is a challenge

The family also had no choice but to keep Mulaudzi at the facility, due to his violent outbursts. “He would threaten to kill us all, especially before he was first admitted at the hospital. We never deserted him. He was one of us, and we often visited him at the hospital to assure him that we cared about him, despite his mental condition”, said Nemukula.

Limpopo Health Department spokesman Neil Shikwambana told Health-e News the province faces a critical challenge of families who cut ties with patients. 

“The problem is you will find that a mental health care user is being assessed or has been treated at a facility, and he or she is supposed to return home, and as part of therapy, he/she needs to feel welcome and be loved and shown care. And imagine if they have been rejected and nobody cares for them. That will be difficult for them to sustain their recovery,” said Shikwambana.

Don’t abandon mental health patients

Last year, Health-e News reported that Hayani faced a critical backlog due to the non-acceptance of discharged patients.

Shikwambana said another challenge facilities faced was that families often wanted to leave patients at the hospital even if it was not needed. 

Nemukula urged families not to abandon relatives who were admitted to psychiatric facilities, and to instead support and care for them. Mulaudzi will be buried at his home village of Mdabula on Thursday. – Health-e News