The forensic psychiatry unit at Valkenberg Hospital is dedicated to providing psychiatric assessments of defendants referred by the courts and rehabilitation of mentally disordered offenders. The Unit is responsible for educating students and colleagues. Research into current issues has a high priority. Within the greater context of mental health care in the community the Unit recognizes that it has to lobby for patients' rights and for needed reforms.
The Unit consists of the following:
- Maximum Security Ward (20) (including observation cases)
- Secure Wards (9/10)
- Closed/Controlled Ward (7)
- Open Ward (12)
Each ward has a programme constructed within a behavioural/milieu system. Patients are placed into groups and given privileges accordingly.
This is an inpatient unit, currently based in Ward 1, which aims to assist adults with a wide range of psychiatric illnesses and psychological problems. The services is available to people who live in the Valkenberg catchment area. The Unit has changed over the past couple of years: it is no longer a psychotherapeutic unit or a neuroclinic, and the focus is now on thorough assessment, and crisis intervention and treatment within a short-term programme.
The Unit caters for people with mood disorders (particularly major depressive episodes and dysthymis); somatisation and anxiety disorders (including post traumatic stress disorders), adjustment disorders, personality disorders (if it is felt that an intervention may help) and other "problems in living" (e.g. bereavement, coping with trauma).
People referred to the Unit should be willing and able to participate in a life-skills based ward programme.
The aims of the Unit
These are to assess the person's difficulties, formulate an understanding of these difficulties in terms of their life context, develop a treatment and management plan, provide containment and limited interventions, and refer the person for appropriate longer-tem follow-up or treatment. This follow-up may be at a community clinic, a specialised centre, or in the private sector.
The Unit offers counselling, medication, psyco-education information about resources, family work, and a group programme focussed on support and the development of life skills (e.g. anxiety management, assertiveness). The daily programme also includes some hobbies (e.g. pottery, art). The programme runs for about two or three hours a day from Monday to Friday.
What the Unit does not offer
The Unit is not geared towards helping people with primary substance abuse, eating or psychotic disorders. People with these disorders should only be referred to the Unit if the disorder is secondary and reasonably well controlled.
Aggressive or violent individuals and those who are actively suicidal cannot be contained on this Unit, and they should only be referred when they are no longer an active risk to others or themselves and if they are appropriate for the programme.
The Unit is one component of a range of services for the assessment and care of people with serious mental illnesses. It is a short-stay inpatient unit for men suffering from a wide variety of psychiatric and neuropsychiatric illnesses which are too severe to be managed at a clinic, outpatient department or other hospital setting. It offers a high-care closed ward for very ill and /or behaviourally disturbed patients who do not need a closed environment; and an open pre-discharge ward for those patients who are not behaviourally disturbed and who may benefit from a ward programme.
The Woman's Mental Health Unit is an acute in-patient unit for woman suffering from a broad range of psychiatric disorders. the majority of the patients in the unit are psychotic and/or behaviourally disturbed at the time of admission.
Dr F van der Merwe
Tel: 021 440 3111