You might be struggling to make ends meet, scared of contracting COVID-19; you might have lost a loved one, lost a job, or are scared of losing your current job – whatever it is, it’s no secret that the effects of this pandemic have felt like a never-ending attack on our collective mental health.
For some, the impact could feel mild and negligible, while for others, it could lead to an almost paralysing state of depression or anxiety. Moreover, it could also lead to increased feelings of loneliness, stress, negative emotional spirals, panic attacks, other forms of mental distress and could even lead to suicidal thoughts.
While we don’t have easily available data on the pandemic’s impact on South Africans’ mental health, a new report by Old Mutual suggests that the number of people affected by mental health disorders has increased significantly over the last few years.
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They have paid out 59% more in psychiatric disorder claims since 2016, and their proportion of suicide claims has increased by 24% between 2018 and 2019.
“Our overall experience with psychiatric disorders shows that most claims were for major depression,” Kerissa Naidoo, Old Mutual’s Chief Medical Officer, said in a statement.
“Other psychiatric disorder claims are attributed to bipolar mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depressive episodes, adjustment disorders, and stress.”
The group says that most claimants, 83%, were adults aged between 30 and 50 years old – prime working age. Interestingly, 70% of these claimants were women.
As we’ve all retreated to working from and staying home, with little to no physical social interaction, one can only imagine how much more of an impact on mental health the last couple of months have had on South Africans.
“Whilst our statistics reflect our experiences in 2019, we can be certain that the current global pandemic will only compound matters,” Naidoo continued.
Feelings of depression and anxiety in lockdown and isolation can make it feel like there’s no one to reach out to, but that’s not true. As we’ve heard a million times over, we’re fortunate enough to live in the most digitised era in history. Amongst other things, this has opened unconventional, but effective, channels and avenues where one can access resources to work through mental health issues.
Here are some resources you can make use of if you feel like you need to talk to someone:
Speak to someone for free
The South African Anxiety and Depression Group, which is the continent’s largest mental health support and advocacy group, offers free telephonic consultations with expert counsellors and psychologists as and when you need it.
Reach them here: 0800 12 13 14
Another free counselling resource is Adcock Ingram’s Depression and Anxiety Helpline. Sponsored by the said pharmaceutical manufacturer, this support line offers immediate help for people that are overwhelmed by depression, anxiety and other issues related to mental health.
Reach them here: 0800 70 80 90
If you’re not necessarily looking to speak to a professional but want to speak to someone who feels like a friend, there’s a free service for that called Befrienders South Africa. With this service, you don’t have to disclose your identity; it’s there to lend a listening ear.
Reach them here: 051 444 5691 (national line) / 051 444 5000 (Bloemfontein line) / 041 922 0068 (Uitenhage line)
For suicidal emergency, call the Cipla SADAG Mental Health Line: 0800 567 567
Book a virtual consultation
Before COVID-19 hit, virtual consultations with psychologists were only allowed where a relationship between the psychologist and patient already existed, but this has since been overturned by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). In April, the statutory body announced that due to COVID-19, first-time consultations could take place virtually.
This is something worth taking advantage of RN. Ask around in your family/friendship circles if anyone has a psychologist they’d recommend, or look online and set up a virtual consultation. Alternatively, check out the BetterHelp website. This platform will help you find affordable online counselling with a licensed therapist.
If you have COVID-19 specific concerns, Discovery and Vodacom recently partnered to launch a free virtual healthcare platform. The platform offers access to reliable information, risk screening and, when necessary, free online medical consultations. All you have to do is register on either the Discovery or Vodacom sites and follow the prompts.
Find nearby help
If you feel that your mental health has deteriorated to a point of no return and you want to access nearby help, visit the TherapyRoute website. This online resource will help you find nearby mental health services. This includes everything from psychologists and social workers to community clinics, NGOs and psychiatric hospitals.
[WATCH] Women’s Health SA chats to experts about dealing with anxiety and mental health in an ever-changing world…