Launch of Mental Health Museum at Weskoppies by UP Commemorates Historical Treatment Practices

Weskoppies Hospital and the Gauteng Department of Health together with its partners, including the University of Pretoria’s Department of Psychiatry, marked the culmination of Mental Health Awareness Month by unveiling the Mental Health Museum at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital on 31 October 2023. Established in 1892, the hospital stands as one of South Africa’s foremost psychiatric facilities, providing a fitting backdrop for this significant initiative.


Gauteng Health and Wellness MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko officiated the unveiling and opening. The museum, which is strategically positioned at the hospital’s entrance, goes beyond being a repository of artefacts and also aims to raise public awareness about mental illness. The significance of mental illness treatment and its history are documented through exhibits such as equipment, patient and health worker representations, tools and records. Through exhibits featuring life-size representations of patients and health workers, tools and historical documents, it narrates a compelling story of progress and challenges.


Under the guidance of the current CEO Mokete Motaung and the hospital executive, its hospital board and partners and alumni, MEC Nkomo-Ralehoko emphasised that the museum serves as a platform for challenging misconceptions surrounding mental health, fostering a space for understanding, empathy and compassion. It invites individuals, families and communities to engage meaningfully with the critical aspect of mental well-being. She further stated, β€œIt provides a space for individuals, families and communities to engage with this crucial aspect of our well-being in a meaningful and informative way. Beyond its educational role, the museum serves as a symbol of hope.”

Professor Priya Soma-Pillay, Chairperson of the School of Medicine at the University of Pretoria, expressed profound pride at the occasion. She highlighted the museum’s role as a captivating window into the history of mental health progress. Prof Soma-Pillay stressed that the museum serves as a bridge connecting the past to the future, acknowledging the tireless dedication of healthcare professionals, researchers and advocates.

Promotion of healing spaces and the integration of art in medicine

“Our commitment is not only to understanding the intricacies of the human mind but also to fostering a more compassionate society,” said Prof Soma-Pillay. She urged unity in breaking down the barriers of stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health, through education, research and care.


Professor Funeka Sokudela, Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pretoria, underlined the University’s commitment to the promotion of healing spaces and the integration of art in medicine. “We believe in healing and dignity in mental health spaces,” she stated.


The Acting Vice-Principal of Student Life and Deputy Dean of Health Stakeholder Relations in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Professor Flavia Senkubuge, praised the opening of the museum as a powerful tool for raising awareness, education and inspiring change. Recognising the museum’s establishment as a significant achievement, she emphasised its role as a bridge between the old and the new.


As the University of Pretoria steps into this historic moment as partner with the Gauteng Department of Health and Weskoppies Hospital, the commitment to transdisciplinarity in the field of mental health remains steadfast. In closing, Prof Senkubuge conveyed gratitude for participating in this momentous occasion, celebrating progress and reaffirming dedication to shaping a more inclusive and empathetic world.


The museum stands not only as a testament to the past but also as a guiding beacon illuminating the path forward.

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