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SA’s mental health crisis

October 27, 2008

Another way in which the poor are being disenfranchised in the recently neo-liberal rainbow nation.

via News – South Africa: SA’s biggest nightmare

South Africa is facing a mental illness “nightmare” that could have disastrous consequences if funds are not made available and drastic action taken, warn researchers and medical authorities.

The University of Cape Town’s Mental Health and Poverty Project has just released a report on the state of mental health policy and service provision in South Africa, the first of its kind.

The SA Stress and Health survey found that 16,5 percent of South Africans had suffered from common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders in the past year.

There were no differences between racial or ethnic groups in the prevalence of mental illness, although it was more likely among poor people and those suffering from social deprivation: poor people tended to have more mental health problems and people living with mental disorders tended to have lower levels of education, employment and income.

The Mental Health and Poverty Project report warned mental health was not at the forefront of policy development and implementation in the health, education, employment, social development or other key sectors, and there is little co-ordination of mental health across these sectors.
According to the SA Depression and Anxiety Group, one in every five people will suffer from a mental illness at some point in their lives.

Spokesperson Cassey Amoore said every 24 hours in South Africa, 22 people commit suicide and 220 people attempt suicide; 9,5 percent of teen deaths are due to suicide. Yet there are only 284 psychiatrists to care for South Africa’s 46 million people, and nearly half work in the private sector.

Compared with 14 other countries (including Germany, France, Nigeria and Mexico), South Africa has the second highest prevalence of substance abuse and the seventh highest of depression.

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