Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate access to mental healthcare facilities in South Africa is limited to four beds per 100 000 people in general hospitals and 16 beds per 100 000 in mental health hospitals.

With October being Mental Health Awareness Month, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), has initiated a number of programmes to stimulate discussions and increase access to mental health.

SADAG Operations Director Cassey Chambers says the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem, as the effects of lockdown have impacted negatively on the physical, financial and emotional wellbeing of people.

“SADAG is raising awareness tied in with the international theme for World Mental Health Day that’s looking at mental health in an unequal world which couldn’t be more true for SA. With one in three South Africans who will have a mental health issue at some point, yet only 1 in 10 have access to treatment. This has to change. For October, SADAG is hosting various online chats, through our Facebook Friday where we tackle important topics. This is free important expert advice. We have exciting events happening throughout the month of October.”

SADAG urges South Africans to take care of their mental health

SADAG has also highlighted the importance of taking care of one’s mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chambers says the effects of the pandemic have caused increased anxiety in the public. She says in 2020, their call center received over 90 000 calls on the suicide helpline.

SADAG says before the pandemic they received 600 calls a day and after the outbreak, those numbers doubled.

Chambers says anxiety, fear over job losses, finances and relationships have been some of the problems many South Africans are facing during this time.

Mental health is the second pandemic after COVID-19: