The month of October has been declared as a Mental Health Awareness Month. It is not only about educating the public about mental health but also to reduce the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness are often subjected to. One in six South Africans suffers from anxiety, depression or substance-abuse problems which does not include more serious conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, according to statistics released by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) in 2019. South Africa has a high number of people that have committed suicide due to mental health problems. Talking about mental health problems matters as it assists to combat the stigma surrounding it and to lower the risk of suicide.
Mental health disorder is a wide range of mental health conditions that affect the mood, mind and behavior. This includes anxiety disorder, depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive habits. Mental health problems are rife in South Africa and have a huge impact in communities. They can affect anyone; it does not matter whether the age or race.
Signs and symptoms of mental health problems
- Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
- Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
- Detachment from reality delusions, paranoia or hallucination
- Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
- Trouble understanding and relating to situations
- Problems with alcohol or drug use
- Excessive anger, hostility or violence
- Suicidal thinking
South Africans should not be afraid of seeking professional help when they are not feeling well mentally. Many people have ended up killing themselves because of mental health problems and the discrimination sorrounding it. It is important to discuss mental health problems in order to encourage people who suffer from it by giving them emotional support and to take their treatment. Many people don’t want to talk about mental health problems as they are scared of being judged. Government should put in place programmes to promote mental health that will be accessible to everyone including people from rural areas and to ensure that mental health problems are recognised early and treated effectively. South Africans should support people who suffer from mental health problems and avoid judging them.
If you feel unusually down and depressed and you don’t know who to turn to, you can visit South Africa Depression & Anxiety Group (SADAG). You can call them on 011 262 6396/0800 12 13 14 or sms 31393. They provide counseling and offer mental health information and resources to help patients.