You may have trouble making ends meet because you are afraid of catching COVID-19. You may have lost a loved one, lost a job, or are afraid of losing your current job – whatever it is, it’s no secret that the effects of this pandemic have felt like a never-ending assault on our collective mental health .
For some, the impact can feel mild and negligible; for others, it can lead to an almost crippling state of depression or anxiety. In addition, it could also lead to increased feelings of loneliness, stress, negative emotional spirals, panic attacks, and other forms of psychological distress, and even lead to thoughts of suicide.
While we don’t have readily available data on the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of South Africans, a new report from Old Mutual suggests that the number of people affected by mental disorders has increased significantly in recent years.
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Since 2016, they have paid 59% more claims for psychiatric disorders, and their share of suicide claims increased by 24% between 2018 and 2019.
“Our overall experience with psychiatric disorders shows that most allegations are due to major depression,” Kerissa Naidoo, chief medical officer of Old Mutual, said in a statement.
“Other claims about psychiatric disorders have been traced back to bipolar mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depressive episodes, adjustment disorders, and stress.”
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The group says that most of the applicants, 83%, were adults between the ages of 30 and 50 – prime working age. Interestingly, 70% of these applicants were women.
With we’ve all withdrawn to work and stay from home with little to no physical social interaction, one can only imagine how much more impact the past few months have had on the mental health of South Africans.
“While our statistics reflect our experience in 2019, we can be sure that the current global pandemic will only get worse,” Naidoo continued.
Feelings of depression and anxiety about lockdown and isolation can make you feel like there’s no one to reach out to, but that’s not true. As we’ve heard a million times, we are fortunate enough to live in the most digitized era in history. This has, among other things, opened up unconventional but effective channels and avenues in which to access resources to solve mental health problems.
Here are some resources you can use if you feel like you need to speak to someone:
Talk to someone for free
The South African Anxiety and Depression Group, the largest mental health advocacy and advocacy group on the continent, offers free telephone consultations with professional counselors and psychologists when you need them.
You can reach them here: 0800 12 13 14
Another free counseling resource is Adcock Ingram’s Depression and Anxiety Hotline. Sponsored by the aforementioned pharmaceutical company, this support line provides instant help to people who are overwhelmed by depression, anxiety, and other mental health related issues.
You can reach them here: 0800 70 80 90
If you don’t necessarily want to speak to a professional, but want to speak to someone who feels like a friend, there is a free service called Befrienders South Africa for that. With this service you don’t have to reveal your identity. It is there to have an open ear.
You can reach them here: 051 444 5691 (national line) / 051 444 5000 (Bloemfontein line) / 041 922 0068 (Uitenhage line)
In a suicide emergency, call them Cipla SADAG Mental Health Line: 0800 567 567
Book a virtual consultation
Before the COVID-19 success, virtual consultations with psychologists were only allowed if there was already a relationship between the psychologist and the patient. However, this was repealed by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). In April, the legal body announced that due to COVID-19, initial consultations could take place virtually.
This is something RN worth taking advantage of. Check with your family / friendship circles to see if someone has a psychologist they would recommend, or look online and set up a virtual counseling session. Alternatively, visit the BetterHelp website. This platform will help you find affordable online consultation with a licensed therapist.
If you’re having COVID-19 specific issues, Discovery and Vodacom recently partnered to launch a free virtual health platform. The platform provides access to reliable information, risk screening and free online medical consultations when needed. All you have to do is register on the Discovery or Vodacom websites and follow the instructions.
Find help nearby
If you feel like your mental health has deteriorated to the point where you cannot return and you want to access help nearby, visit the TherapyRoute website. This online resource can help you locate mental health services nearby. This includes everything from psychologists and social workers to community clinics, NGOs, and psychiatric hospitals.
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