Help for stressed children

TEAM WORK: The managing committee of the NMMU Child Psychology Clinic is, front, from left,  Cora Bekker, Jenny Jansen, Dr Zukiswa Zingela, Dr Alti  Bronkhorst and  back,  Darren Coxhill and Prof Louise Stroud Picture: MIKE HOLMES -
TEAM WORK: The managing committee of the NMMU Child Psychology Clinic is, front, from left, Cora Bekker, Jenny Jansen, Dr Zukiswa Zingela, Dr Alti Bronkhorst and back, Darren Coxhill and Prof Louise Stroud Picture: MIKE HOLMES –

Professionals join hands to assist youngsters affected by violence

WITH the number of children in the metro diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder rocketing, doctors at Dora Nginza Hospital have joined hands with their colleagues at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to provide the best possible care for the city’s disadvantaged youngsters.

Dr Alti Bronkhorst, a Walter Sisulu University psychiatry registrar attached to Dora Nginza Hospital, said the number of children deeply affected by violence in society had increased exponentially, but the team had managed to reduce waiting times and increase the length of time available to see each patient.

Dr Zukiswa Zingela, head of the hospital’s psychiatry department, said the facility was delighted to join hands with NMMU’s Child Psychology Clinic, based at the university’s Missionvale campus, to improve services to the community and provide specialist medical input.

“We so often see children at Dora Nginza Hospital who have been labelled as difficult kids, but actually suffer from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said. They joined the clinic in April.

Bronkhorst said the unit saw a lot of child patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, attention deficit disorder, autism, and a condition that was a precursor to schizophrenia.

They were now also seeing elderly patients needing treatment for neuropsychological disorders.

“Drug abuse is also a big problem. The suffering drugs cause in our communities is indescribable,” she said.

Social worker Cora Bekker said a facility for the treatment of drug addiction among the youth already had a waiting list of 25 children although it had not yet opened.

The clinic has a beautiful playroom to facilitate play therapy.

The clinic’s programme manager, Darren Coxhill, said the clinic had come a long way “on less than a shoestring budget”.

“We used to have a waiting list of two to three years [for anyone to access the services the clinic provides]. Our dedicated doctors managed to get that waiting list way down,” Coxhill said.

Bronkhorst and Zingela are assisted by Dr Stephan van Wyk, a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer at Walter Sisulu University.

NMMU School of Behavioural Sciences director Prof Louise Stroud said the collaboration was wonderful.

“What makes the clinic work is the team work,” she said. “Our aim is to meet the community’s unmet needs.”

The clinic also runs moms and toddlers groups, and training programmes for teachers on how to identify a child who might need psychological help.

“Teachers and pupils in public schools receive no support,” Stroud said.

Educational psychologist Dr Rosemary Exner assists at the clinic. Zingela said she was very excited about the drug rehabilitation facility for children which was scheduled to be opened in New Brighton later this year.

“At the hospital, we can only treat children with drug problems if they require hospitalisation.

“If they are young, we try to treat them ourselves because for us to send them to Elizabeth Donkin Hospital would require them to be certified by the courts, and this has dire consequences for their future,” she said.

The clinic manager, clinical psychologist Dr Jenny Jansen, said there were big plans for the facility. “We want a school where children can come for six months of continuing therapy and tutoring.

“It will eliminate patients get lost because they become untraceable,” she said.

-Estelle Ellis

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