October has been declared Mental Health Awareness month in South Africa, a country like many others in the world that adds a fair share of reported cases. It has been reported that a staggering 400 million people suffer from mental or neurological disorders or psychological problems globally. Recent stats have shown a 3% decline in mental wellbeing in South Africa, adding to worries of an increase in the rate of the distressed and/ or struggling, from 28,5% to 36% in 2022.
Several factors can be outlined here, but none as towering as what can be declared as the enemy of our state – astronomical unemployment figures – no doubt fueled by the harsh onslaught of the COVID 19 pandemic. This coupled with challenges to economic growth, are detrimental to aspirations of where and what we could have been. As it stands, South Africans are now more distressed than they were in 2020.
In building a strong nation brand, South Africa needs all its citizens rallied behind a banner against practices that exclude individuals who are an integral part of society. Organisations such as the South African Federation for Mental Health and The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), play an important role in the fight against mental health related issues through advocacy and the promotion of community health care. Through awareness programmes, and a strong advocacy for increases in mental health resourcing and training offered in workspaces and communities countrywide, their efforts are a beacon of light on a long journey towards our country’s mental wellness.
“Mental Health Awareness month should be a priority for everyone everywhere, and not just in October. Mental health is our health, and it is a human right to be mentally well,” said Shayni Geffen, who is Project Lead for Advocacy and Awareness at the South African Federation for Mental Health. Her sentiments were echoed by her colleague and Psychological Therapist and Mental Health Consultant, Fatima Zahra. “The more we speak about mental health and the more we create awareness around mental health, we enable people to understand that it is okay to speak about mental health, and that it is okay not to be okay”, she commented.
For our nation to heal, for our nation to prosper beyond the expectation borne out of a generation of democracy, we need all hands on deck to educate and enlighten one another on mental health issues, show compassion towards and improve our treatment of those who suffer from it, and accept that it is okay not be okay. That is the first step towards mental and overall wellness.
For the full interview on all things about mental health awareness month, Take a listen to the recording here.