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The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism 2006-2007

Tamar Kahn
Science & Health Editor/Correspondent
Business Day
Cape Town, South Africa

Click here to read the Carter Center profile on Tamar Kahn

TOPIC: Explore the impact of trauma, shift work, and organizational changes on the mental health of South African police officers, and how their mental health problems affect their families, co-workers, and the citizens they are charged to protect.

A Beaten Officer, Stuck in His Beat
The policeman's wife stares through the car window across the steamy township to the derelict house where her husband shot his first suspect almost a decade ago. The teenager was the first of a half-dozen people to die at the policeman's hand, killings that permeate his every waking moment, seep into his dreams and poison his mind.

Burden of Stress Burns Hole of Desperation in Hearts of SA's Police
A few weeks ago Johannesburg metro police officer Themba Mabanga climbed into his patrol car, and shot himself with his service pistol. He left no suicide note explaining his last desperate act, leaving his colleagues and family to try to puzzle out the reasons for the tragedy.

Repairing the Trauma of Violent Crime
Late one Sunday night, Constable Tony Penso stumbled while entering the front door of his Johannesburg home, dropped his gun on the floor and shot himself in the stomach. Eventually, his neighbours came to investigate the bang and drove him to a nearby hospital.

Legacy of Apartheid or Clever Ruse to Milk the State?
Almost a decade ago, police captain Jeff Benzien shocked the world with his chilling demonstration before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of how he had tortured detainees during apartheid by suffocating them with a wet bag.

Keeping SA Safe--The Real Nightriders
The temperature is rapidly sliding towards zero, as Insp Theuns Grobler and Const Gert van Tonder head out on their all-night patrol of Witbank. Bitter though the night is, the heater in their BMW is switched off. Heat makes them sleepy. The time is 6.05pm. Both men have been married a year, and both know their wives will sleep little tonight.

Crime Takes its Toll on Community Crime Fighters
MPHO Fortune's voice is steady as he quietly relates a recent experience as a community policing forum volunteer on the streets of Dobsonville - helping cut down the body of a police reservist who hanged himself.

Families of Cops are in the Firing Line
An old pine chair saved Clara Meyer. It caught the bullet her constable son-in-law Carl Sharnick had intended for the back of her head, sending the bullet ricocheting into the checked linoleum kitchen floor just inches from where she lay wounded after his first attempt to kill her.

'Three Horrible Weeks' that Changed a Leader's Life
Sometimes grown men do cry. And when they do so in public, you can be sure everyone sits up and pays attention. Just ask former Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, who has been touring SA to raise awareness about mental illness.

Development of a Support Group at Mogwase Prison
On the morning of the 29th February 1998, Dr. Seape, Therry, Zane and myself headed off to Rustenburg. Instead of the gambling halls of Sun City, we were destined for less alluring places. Our first stop was Mogwase Prison – situated fifty kilometres from Rustenburg. Dr. Seape and Therry disembarked there to meet with prison doctors, social workers and wardens.

Mental Health Treatment in Spotlight
Fewer than one in five South Africans who experience a mental health disorder during their lifetime get treatment, says a major new study funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC). The South African Stress and Health Survey, released yesterday to coincide with World Mental Health Day, is the first of its kind and will be an important source of information for policymakers.

On the Right Track to Better Health
After years of excruciating pain, Leah Hendricks has finally got rid of her troublesome tooth and is looking forward to cooking up a meat curry. Beaming from ear to ear, she has just emerged from Transnet's Phelophepa train, a mobile clinic that travels to some of SA's poorest communities.

You can't help but look at the job Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi faces and be grateful for the one you have. He faces the daunting task of fixing a rotten public healthcare system that lurches from one crisis to the next - the baby deaths at Charlotte Maxeke academic hospital being the latest horror story to hit the headlines - and he has to figure out how to pull private healthcare out of its deadly cost spiral.

Risk of Suicide Rises when Workers Lose Jobs 


Counting Sheep 
Stress, pain, living conditions and psychological problems can all stop you getting to sleep. Claire Keeton reports


Flexibility is the Key to a Loyal Workforce
Wasting time in a gridlock during rush hour in Johannesburg isn't good for your blood pressure. But choosing what hours you work is, and also seems to benefit mental health and sleep patterns.

Women with Knives
Wives, mothers, dedicated surgeons. Claire Keeton talks to four women who have chosen surgical gowns over ball gowns.

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