Music for Child Mental Health Concert

By Kirsten Rowe on behalf of the organising committee; photos by Domenic Gorin.


Mental illness is a huge contributor to the aggregate burden of “years lived with disability”. Half of all mental illness starts before the age of 14-years-old. Resource allocation to mental health care is generally limited and insufficient. In South Africa, there is a large mental health treatment gap for children and adolescents experiencing mental health difficulties. This impacts detrimentally on mental health outcomes, increases treatment costs, and increases the burden of disease in adulthood.

Dr Rene Nassen, along with her role as a Stellenbosch University (SU) Psychiatry Department Lecturer and Clinical Head and Consultant Child Psychiatrist of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Lentegeur Hospital, has been involved with spearheading a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Strengthening Project in the Western Cape with a pilot project occurring in one of the Cape Metro districts through the support of the Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness. As part of advocacy efforts to raise awareness of child and adolescent mental health and to lobby support for the CAMHS strengthening project, she and a team of past and present colleagues from the Lentegeur CAMHS Team, four of whom are consultants or registrars from the Department of Psychiatry at SU, organised a ‘Music for Child Mental Health’ Concert which took place on Sunday 19 March 2023.


The organising committee from left to right: Angus Fletcher, Sybrand de Vaal, Eliza-Jane Kenyon, Rene Nassen, Kate Farquharson, Bennie Steyn, Kirsten Rowe.


Child Advisors from left to right: Johnlee Plaatjies, Lilitha Kopolo, Tara Hendricks, and Vimbai Watambwa; Christina Nomdo, Children’s Commissioner (far right).


The Children’s Commissioner, Ms Christina Nomdo, and the Child Advisors gave the opening address. There were performances from various ensembles of which the organising committee are members including the Hugo Lambrechts Senior Wind Band, the UCT Health Sciences Orchestra, VOX Cape Town, and the Cape Town Irish Session Band. There were also solo performances by Dr Marc Hendricks, Dr Angus Fletcher, and Michael Smith accompanied by Dr Peter Smith, as well as a performance by the Music Therapy Collective. Lentegeur Hospital’s music therapist Kate Farquharson led all the performers and the audience in a participatory closing song.


VOX Cape Town (directed by John Woodland) commissioned a new choral work, ‘Find the Light’, especially for the event, and plans to record the piece at a later stage. The lyrics were based on excerpts of poems written by adolescents participating in music therapy groups at Lentegeur Hospital, with their consent. The musical composition was by young South African composer Kristi Boonzaaier. The song spoke to the adolescents’ sense of hope and finding the light, despite the dark times they had experienced with their mental health difficulties.

From left to right: Kirsten Rowe, Kristi Boonzaaier, and John Woodland.


The concert took place at Christ Church Constantia who also provided generous support with logistics. Pick n Pay Plumstead kindly donated refreshments for visiting staff and young people from Lentegeur Hospital. Lentegeur Hospital executive and administrative staff assisted with the printing of programmes. The organising committee is grateful to all the performers, accompanists and the audience for their support of this wonderful event, including their kind donations to the Spring Foundation ( for their ongoing work in psychosocial rehabilitation and building hope through reconnection to the natural world, community, identity, and heritage. We hope that this concert is only the beginning of greater advocacy and awareness around child and adolescent mental health.

Child Advisors Lilitha Kopolo (left) and Vimbai Watambwa (right) with audience members participating in the concert closing song.