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By Siphumelele Khumalo


65% of young people in SA dealing with mental health problems did not seek help – Unicef

The month of October has been declared Mental Health Awareness Month with the objective of not only educating the public about mental health but also to reduce the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness are often subjected to.

According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef), by 2021, 65% of young people in South Africa dealing with mental health related issues did not seek help.

October has been declared Mental Health Awareness month and World Mental Health falls on 10 October and to highlight its importance, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the overall objective of the day is to raise awareness on the issue and mobilise effort to support mental health.  

According to the WHO, the day also provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.

The coronavirus pandemic was a key factor in the change and lack of mental health for many South Africans as many aspects were challenged and more so, before the pandemic in 2019, an estimated one in eight people globally were living with a mental disorder.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has created a global crisis for mental health, fueling short- and long-term stresses and undermining the mental health of millions. Estimates put the rise in both anxiety and depressive disorders at more than 25% during the first year of the pandemic.

“At the same time, mental health services have been severely disrupted and the treatment gap for mental health conditions has widened.”

“Growing social and economic inequalities, protracted conflicts, violence and public health emergencies affect whole populations, threatening progress towards improved well-being; a staggering 84 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced during 2021,” said the WHO in a statement.

The WHO added that it would be working with partners to launch a campaign around the theme of Making Mental Health & Well-Being for All a Global Priority.

Mental health triggers include:

  • Workload (both excessive and insufficient work)
  • Lack of participation and control in the workplace
  • Monotonous or unpleasant tasks
  • Role ambiguity or conflict
  • Lack of recognition at work
  • Inequity
  • Poor interpersonal relationships
  • Poor working conditions
  • Poor leadership and communication
  • Conflicting home and work demands.

Pasadena Villa, a psychiatric treatment revealed the ten most common disorders:

-Autism Spectrum Disorder: General disorders on the autism include autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome and atypical autism.

-Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that can cause people to have delusions, hallucinate or show no emotion at all. Individuals with schizophrenia can have difficulty thinking clearly, managing emotions, making decisions, and relating to others

-Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar disorder is one of several mood disorders that leave people with emotions swinging from very high (manic) to hazardously low (depressive). The extremes are so severe that they can damage relationships, result in poor academic or work performance and possibly lead to suicide.

-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is characterized by repetitive, unwanted, obsessions and irrational, excessive urges of certain actions. Individuals with OCD will often see symptoms in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood. Typically, symptoms will las more than an hour each day and will interfere with daily functioning.

-Anxiety Disorders: Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the US and can include OCD, panic attacks and phobias. It is estimated that 40 million adults have an anxiety disorder.

-Phobias: Anxiety disorder also comes in the form of phobias. Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, occurs when everyday situations cause someone to become self-conscious and anxious. They spend days and weeks worrying about a single situation.

-Substance Use Disorder: Mental health disorders and substance use disorders can co-occur, making treatment for both disorders necessary. More than one in four adults with a serious mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and personality disorders, also have a substance use disorder.

-Eating Disorders: Bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are marked by extreme behaviours, which usually are rooted in complex biological and psychological causes, including depression and anxiety.

-Personality Disorders: Common disorders include antisocial personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.

-Mood Disorders: Mood disorders have varying degrees of severity and can be difficult to diagnose however, they are the most frequently diagnosed mental disorders. In addition to bipolar disorder, mood disorders include major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder. 

How to improve your mental health:

  1. Connect with other people.
  2. Be physically active.
  3. Learn new skills
  4. Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)
  5. Give to others

ALSO READ: Taking a mental health day can be good for you– here’s how

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