Pretoria – An online commemoration and advocacy project was launched yesterday to remember those who died in the Life Esidimeni saga and prevent a tragedy from happening again.
The formal investigative hearing into the Life Esidimeni saga is scheduled to begin on July 19 at the Pretoria High Court.
The website tells the stories of the horrors and hardships of family members of 144 mental illness patients who died of neglect and starvation while under the care of the public health system.
The government promised an appropriate memorial to all those who lost their lives in the tragedy, but never kept that promise, said Section27 Legal Center, which is part of the project.
The website and advocacy campaign gives voice to the lived experiences of mental health users and their families, and shines a light on the crisis in mental health care delivery in South Africa.
The platform also offers help through links to hotlines and counseling services that offer referrals, information and support.
Cassey Chambers, from the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, who initiated the project, said: “We must not forget. But we need to remember this so that we can act to prevent it from happening again. We have to talk until someone is listening.
Christine Nxumalo, head of the Life Esidimeni Family committee, said at the launch that as long as people with mental health issues are not treated differently, their work will continue. “It can never be over. It is important to talk about our stories. We must never forget this tragedy. “
Documentary director Harriet Perlman said the website will be an ongoing memorial and advocacy project. “It’s a story of horror and unimaginable hardship. It is also a story of extraordinary courage and tenacity.
She and her team visited several of the families who had lost loved ones in the Esidimeni tragedy and recorded their stories. They took pictures of themselves, in turn holding pictures of the family members they lost, which can be seen on the website.
Perlman said for many it was the only photo they had of their family member.
“This series of portraits pays tribute to the people who lost loved ones in the Life Esidimeni tragedy. We photographed people in their homes, holding a photo they had chosen of their deceased brother, sister or child.
“Some of the photos were taken on the last day they saw their loved one alive. Others at a family event. Some only had an official photo from an identity book. But regardless of the photograph, each image made sense to those who remained.
“Sometimes we would hear the story of when the photo was taken. Or remembered a happy moment. But it also stirred painful and ubiquitous memories of the deaths of loved ones. These photographs open a door to the past. And they also shed light on the present, ”Perlman said.
A documentary film is due out next year on the tragedy.
Section 27 health rights officer Sasha Stevenson said she was representing around 35 of the families in the next inquiry. “We need state responsibility and criminal responsibility. Although some accountability has been obtained through the arbitration process, progress has been slow. “
Stevenson said there were still many unanswered questions, including how exactly some of these psychiatric patients died in public facilities. In numerous police reports, it was stated that they died of natural causes, which was not true, she said.
She explained that the expectation was that the judge would listen to all the evidence and that she would recommend, in the end, whether some people be criminally charged.
It is ultimately the decision of the National Prosecution Authority to move the matter forward.
Chambers meanwhile stressed that the website was not just aimed at Esidimeni survivors and their families: “Anyone can tell their story here, ask for help with a mental issue, or report any abuse. . “
The website address is www.lifeesidimeni.org.za/lives-remembered.
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The lives of the victims of Esidimeni are remembered
SourceThe lives of the victims of Esidimeni are remembered