This video is part of TimesLIVE’s “On Shift” – a 10-part video series proudly brought to you by 1Life Insurance. Every Monday until the end of May, watch exclusive videos giving unusual insight into the lives and perspectives of people working in interesting professions in South Africa.
Amid rolling views of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, the peaceful surrounds of Tara Hospital contrasts with the challenging but important work done behind its red brick facade: child psychiatry.
Dr Alison, a child psychiatrist at the unit officially known as the H Moross Centre, says most children who are admitted present severe emotional and behavioural problems.
Some of the children may show a lack of empathy and remorse, harm others or suffer from psychotic hallucinations.
The hospital therefore provides a secure unit for these boys and girls, including a school, play rooms and dormitories.
The most difficult aspect, says Dr Alison, is busting the social myths about psychiatry, which can make people reluctant to use the services and resources available at Tara.
“It’s easier to conceptualise a problem with your heart or your lungs, because it is a physical organ,” she says.
Mental illness is who you are, and I think it is quite scary for people to come and talk to a professional about these things.
“Mental illness is who you are, and I think it is quite scary for people to come and talk to a professional about these things.”
Although medication is sometimes used in her profession, Dr Alison stresses there is “so much more” to the treatment, and that her team’s goal is to create a fun and safe therapeutic space for affected children and their families.