News | South Africa | Health
Mental health has become a massive crisis in the country and with long waiting lists to get treatment, it has become the silent killer in the pandemic.
Loyiso Maqubela, a clinical psychologist practising at Akeso Milnerton in Cape Town, said men were the most affected.
The World Health Organisation reported men in SA were four times more likely to commit suicide than women.
“This should indicate far high- er rates of depression amongst men in South Africa, and yet we see significantly more women seeking help for depression,” Maqubela said.
Got it “Presenting with anger and frustration, physical violence, engaging in substance abuse and similar behaviours may often relate to suppressed mental health issues and may indicate depression.”
Alexander Oosthuysen, a clinical psychologist at Akeso Clinic Parktown in Johannesburg added around 80% of the general population seeking help for depression at mental health facilities were female.
“On the other hand, approximately 75% to 85% of those receiving treatment for substance abuse and similar disorders are male.”
Cape Town publisher Zalman Davis has recently battled depression.
“It’s so easy to fall into depression. One moment I’m fine and the next I’m falling apart, it’s like a see-saw,” Davis said.
He said, unlike popular belief, you don’t just snap out of it.
Davis was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in 2015 and placed on five different medications.
In 2019, Davis hit rock bottom when he tried to commit suicide for the first time.
“After relocating to Cape Town, two months in I felt, ‘oh f***, here we go again’,” Davis said.
He told a friend he was scared of himself and what he might do.
That night, Davis drank a handful of sleeping pills with the last bit of wine he had.
“I decided that I didn’t want to wake up the next morning. I even prayed and tried to convince God to [take] me,” Davis said.
To his surprise, he lived to tell the tale: “I was so disappointed and sad when it didn’t work.”
He again hit rock bottom recently. The past four months have been worse than the low in 2019.
“I’m not in the mood to work or do anything, for that matter,” he said.
Davis has thoughts of jumping out of the window of his flat on the fifth floor but was scared it would be just another failed attempt.
“What if I end up in a wheelchair and then get suicidal thoughts, what then,” he asked.
He said if he had not got help, from a psychiatrist, he would have snapped.
“I can’t say that I completely feel better, but I feel lighter,” Davis said.
The lockdown has played a big role in his recent depression.
Doctor Ivan de Klerk a clinical psychologist at Zwavelstream Clinic said there was a massive mental health crisis. Since the lockdown, there has been a waiting list of patients needing to be admitted to the clinic.
“There are 80 people in the clinic and 80 waiting to get into the clinic,” De Klerk said.
“You need to know if someone wants to be admitted they feel pretty bad.”
De Klerk said he has never seen so many survivors of suicide.
“People who have lost someone to suicide … I have never seen so many cases in the 12 years I have been practicing,” he said.
De Klerk said the numbers easily doubled or trebled since the beginning of lockdown.
“It’s going bad with most people. People with pre-existing conditions like depression are struggling a lot now.
“And there are also many new first-timers who have never struggled before but now do,” De Klerk said.
He said people weren’t feeling depressed about the pandemic but rather from the lockdown and regulations.
“The picture of mental health looks very bad at the moment. It’s an absolute silent killer, I shudder to think where our suicide rates stand,” he said.