October is an important month that shines the spotlight on the importance of mental health. With World Mental Health Awareness Day falling on October 10, it is a critical period for individuals, businesses, governments, and organisations of all kinds to give attention to and prioritise mental health.

By Staff Reporter

Professionals strongly recommend that society must be well-informed and attentive in identifying the early signs of mental health problems and understanding the importance of seeking help.

“South Africans are particularly susceptible to poor mental health because we live in a violent society with high levels of unemployment, as well as the legacy of racism, which includes familial breakdown caused in large part by the migrant labour system.

“The result of these societal pressures is high levels of psychological distress, manifesting as an inability to cope with daily stressors, depression, anxiety and even escalating to suicide,” explains Iyanda Nyoni, a registered counsellor at Kena Health.

South Africa has a high rate of common mental health disorders, with close to a third of the population having experienced such disorders at some point in their lives.

According to a Wits University study, South Africans have higher rates of depression and anxiety than other countries. Based on the findings of the study, it has been determined that mental health conditions impact a significant proportion of the South African population, specifically 25%. This figure is notably higher than the prevalence rates observed in other countries, such as the United States (6.9%), Australia (10%), and Brazil (7.9%), where the incidence is less than half of that observed in South Africa.

As specified by the Mental State of the World 2022 report, South Africa found itself in the company of the bottom five countries worldwide when it comes to mental health.

The study conducted by Wits University highlights the limited availability of mental health services in primary healthcare facilities across South Africa, which poses a challenge for individuals seeking assistance. Furthermore, it is unfortunate that mental health continues to be stigmatised in various communities throughout the country.

It has been suggested that the national economy suffers a significant annual deficit of around R161 billion due to the current lack of attention towards the treatment and management of mental health conditions.

Depression and anxiety, two challenging mental health conditions, can often be elusive and disruptive. They have a way of disguising themselves as ordinary concerns, but their true impact can be far more serious. In light of this, Iyanda encourages South Africans to adopt a vigilant mindset and familiarise themselves with the signs and symptoms of these conditions. By doing so, they can better support themselves and their loved ones.

Iyanda emphasise the importance of recognising signs of depression and taking the necessary steps to seek assistance: “The most important thing is to identify the signs of depression and then seek help. If left untreated, mental health conditions can escalate with dire consequences for the individual concerned, his or her family and colleagues, society and the economy.”

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group, SADAG, lists these 12 symptoms of depression:

1.  Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities you once enjoyed, including sex.

2. Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism.

3. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness and self-reproach.

4. Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping.

5. Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain.

6. Decreased energy, fatigue and feeling run down.

7. Increased use of alcohol and drugs; may be associated but not a criterion for diagnosis.

8. Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts.

9. Restlessness, irritability, hostility.

10. Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions.

11. Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.

12. Deterioration of social relationships.

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