SA is a stressed and depressed nation: Experts

SA is a stressed and depressed nation: Experts

Speakers at the first South African Mental Health Conference say citizens in the public healthcare sector have little access to mental health services due to limited resources.

The two day conference kicked off in Gauteng on Monday, under the theme: “Time to talk about mental health. Join The Movement”.

More than 700 delegates from 14 countries are in attendance.

VIDEO: Struggles to access mental healthcare facilities

According to the latest Mental State of the World Report, South Africa is among the countries accounting for the lowest rate of mental well-being globally.

Despite this, the country has recorded the highest number of people struggling with mental health worldwide.

South Africa is a stressed and depressed nation with little access to mental healthcare.

That’s according to experts presenting on day one of the Mental Health conference.

Load shedding, the COVID-19 pandemic, high levels of violence and crime and poverty are just some of the reason that the country presents with levels of mental illness, says conference chair Professor Olive Shisana.

“There are factors that are contributing to mental health. The high rate of poverty, particularly related to financial stress. The rate of political and social upheaval in our country is contributing to poor mental health of our country. We have high prevalence of trauma, in relation to violence and abuse, particularly GBV. This contributes to developing mental health conditions.”

Shisana says South Africa is being guided by the National Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan, however, the country has experienced challenges in providing adequate access to healthcare.

“South Africa has come up with mental health legislation that is guiding what we do since 2002. It aims to protect the rights of those with mental health conditions. Also to improve the availability and quality of mental health services and establish a framework.”

In 2015, 144 people at psychiatric facilities in the Gauteng province, died from causes including starvation and neglect.

It’s now dubbed, as one of the most painful tragedies that befell the South African healthcare sector.

Speaking at the opening session of the conference, Christine Nxumalo from the Life Esidimeni Family Committee says, these atrocities continue to happen on a daily basis.

“We actually came up with a saying that says, mental health happens on a daily basis in SA. Life Esidimeni happens on a daily basis because we are too busy having conferences, we are too busy following protocol. We are not living the lives of people suffering with mental illness. Mental health is as important as physical health. Why is it not getting the same attention?”

Meanwhile, delivering the keynote address, Health Minister Joe Phaahla says to this date one of the main challenges government faces in delivering mental healthcare services is the migration of trained professionals to the private sector.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and other disasters we have gone through have illuminated the importance of mental health. We saw how COVID brought about mental and physical anguish. We emphasis the availability of psychiatrists is still a barrier in terms of us being very effective in this regard. Many people have no knowledge in terms of where to access the care. Also a reduction of stigma. Stigma and discrimination persists and is exacerbated in by lack of information.”


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