The Global theme for World Mental Health Day 2023 is – ‘Mental Health is a Universal Human Right’. In South Africa, where only 1 in 10 people with a Mental Illness have access to treatment, the theme couldn’t be more relevant. World Mental Health Awareness Day is an opportunity for people and communities to unite, improve knowledge, raise awareness and drive actions that promote and protect everyone’s Mental Health.
“Mental health is a Human Right – There is no health without Mental Health. Mental Health care is a human right and advocating for access and equity is a social justice issue. Nowhere in the world do Mental Health care services enjoy parity with physical health in terms of funding. Stigma continues to be a significant barrier to quality care, social integration, and employment opportunities”, said Dr Mashadi Motlana, SADAG Board Member and Psychiatrist.
Mental Health knows no boundaries or borders. It is a basic aspect of our overall health and should be considered a fundamental Human Right. South Africa’s current statistic is that 1 in 3 South Africans will or do have a Mental Illness at some point in their lifetime facing Mental Health challenges. The current landscape reveals significant gaps in Mental Health resources.
Good Mental Health is vital to our overall health and well-being. Mental Illness can impact physical health, well-being, how people connect with others, and their livelihoods. Mental Health conditions are also affecting an increasing number of adolescents and young people. A call for more services dedicated to children and adolescents is a reflection of commitment to nurturing the well-being and future of the younger generation. By investing in NGOs and youth-focused programmes, we not only provide essential support for those in need but also contribute to the creation of a more resilient society. It is time to take a stand and ‘Make Mental Health Matter’.
For 30 years, The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), has been providing free Mental Health services, support, training and information to people across the country on various Mental Health issues. Currently the SADAG Helplines receive up to 3 000 calls per day, and hundreds more emails, sms’s, whatsapps and social media messages from people reaching out for help, resources and support.
“As a teen, I have had a lot of problems in the last two years, but there are people I can call on for care and advice. They give me help and even late at night or on a weekend, they know I am alone and they help me”
While South Africa has taken steps towards strengthening Mental Health care in the last 20 years including reforming the Mental Health Care Act 2002 and developing a National Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2023-2030, more needs to be done.
Psychiatrist and Chairperson of the SA Mental Health Alliance, Dr. Mvuyiso Talatala, says, “Less than 4% of the national health budget is spent on Mental Healthcare, and the majority of that budget is allocated to inpatient hospital care. There isn’t nearly enough budget and resources allocated for outpatient programmes to help patients once they leave hospitals, and there isn’t enough money invested in community Mental Health systems.”
SADAG’s Operations Director, Cassey Chambers, said “At the beginning of 2023, the National Health Budget was reduced, which means that the Mental Health Allocation was also reduced. The Mental Health Care System was already under strain before COVID. The Mental Health impact of COVID has increased the demand for services and care, and we desperately need more investment into Mental Health Care in South Africa now than ever.”
The need for more investment in Mental Health professionals cannot be overlooked. Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Registered Counsellors, Social Workers and Occupational Therapists, play a pivotal role in diagnosing, treating, and providing essential support to individuals experiencing Mental Health challenges. Our hospitals and medical facilities require enhanced Mental Health infrastructure. Investing in the expansion of Mental Health units within hospitals is crucial to accommodating the growing demand for services and improving the overall quality of care.
“Instability of the economy, climate and life in general are all negatively impacting Mental Health. There is unsettlement across the world and I think people can feel that even in South Africa,” said SADAG Founder, Zane Wilson. “A spike in Anxiety and Depression since COVID-19 lockdown, and now the cost-of-living crisis, particularly with fuel increases and the financial strain, can also add to people’s problems. Trauma, Violence and Rape along with family issues can make things much worse.”
This World Mental Health Day (10 October), SADAG encourages all South Africans to #GoGreenForMentalHealth, by rallying and encouraging peers, colleagues, friends and loved ones to wear green, be decorated in green and come up with creative ways to #GoGreen. Let’s raise our voices together to help advocate for better Mental Healthcare and to recognise that Mental Healthcare is an integral part of the healthcare system. Now, more than ever, South Africans from all areas and walks of life need – and deserve – better Mental Health care, and to know that their Mental Health Rights are important.
SADAG is hosting various activities, events and webinars throughout October to create awareness around Mental Health and provide more support services to people across the country. SADAG provides support through our 30+ toll-free Helplines which are available 24 hours a day and provide counselling, support and referrals to callers in need. We have over 180 free Support Groups around the country that offer supplementary Mental Health aftercare. We provide training and webinars on various Mental Health issues to help raise awareness and destigmatise Mental Health. For more information on the various activities planned for October and how to get involved, visit www.sadag.org.
We asked our Social Media community ‘What Is one thing you wished more people understood about Mental Health” and here was some of their feedback:
– It’s ok to ask for help
– Our Mental Health is impacted by our socio-economic conditions. If we really want to improve the Mental Health of all – our view and approach need to include awareness of, and attention to, the systemic conditions that undermine our wellbeing.
– It’s not something you can just get over. It’s a continuous process and ongoing journey. You will still have lows – it doesn’t go away completely. You shouldn’t shame us for what we are going through and tell us to snap out of it.
– It’s not a phase. It isn’t a fashion statement. It’s debilitating; it can be just as crippling as a physical condition. It is a recognised disability throughout the world. Just because it isn’t always immediately visible does not mean it is any less impactful
– How tough it can be to live through a depressive episode
– There’s no “look” for neurodiverse conditions. I hate when I get told “you don’t look like you have Anxiety/ADHD”
– Mental health is just a health issue like any other physical health condition that one might have, and it needs intervention-relevant professionals, trained to handle it.
– You can look normal from the outside but suffer from severe chronic anxiety that is severely disabling your daily life.
– “You don’t look mentally ill”, Mental illness is internal in your brain, not outward on your physical appearance.
Source social-tv: https://social-tv.co.za/every-day-should-be-world-mental-health-day/
Picture courtesy Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/mental-health-mental-wellness-4232031/
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