Barriers to community mental health users’ access to information needed to deal with mental health problems, Western Cape, South Africa
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The most important advancement in the healthcare industry in the 21st century is the application of information technology (IT) in health care. While integrated IT is critical in transforming mental health care, IT infrastructure in mental health lags behind other sectors. This study explored community mental health users’ barriers to accessing information in dealing with mental health problems. Semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with 11 mental health users and their family members, and two focus group discussions were held with eight mental health consumers and family members of each. Major barriers to accessing information were long waiting times for services; inadequate mental health education and information sessions; and lack of a support club to share information and experiences with people with similar mental problems. Empowering mental health users with adequate and appropriate mental health information helps to improve their care. Use of IT such as tele-health communication, email and text messages using computers was proven to improve access to information and quality of care provision.