Mental health in the most unequal world

Updated: Oct 28

As #MentalHealthAwareness Month draws to a close, it is important to ask ourselves how far we have come with the objective of educating around mental health and reducing the stigma and discrimination people with mental illnesses often face. Around 400 million people worldwide suffer from mental or neurological disorders or from psychosocial problems. This can often make it difficult for them to work a normal job and function in todays busy and high-paced society, which in turn can have a negative impact on the economy, as the work force is diminished.

The pandemic has shone a spotlight onto mental health, highlighting the importance of self-care like never before, with most of the world experiencing much higher levels of stress and anxiety than normal due to isolation and the general state of upheaval that the world has faced in the past year and half. Add to this an ongoing femicide pandemic in our country and the effect on mental health for South Africans, especially women, can be devastating.

This years theme of ‘mental health in an unequal world’ is especially prevalent in our country, with the femicide rate being 5 times the global average, making South Africa one of the most unequal countries in the world. This years theme highlights the fact that access to mental health services remains unequal, with between 75% to 95% of people with mental disorders in low and middle-income countries unable to access mental health services at all, with access in high-income countries not being much better. Gender-based violence is shown to have devastating effects on survivors mental health, and with 40% of South African women having experienced #GBV, the need for better mental health services is urgent.

The effects of GBV can include:

• Depression

• Anxiety

• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

• Substance abuse problems

Phindile’s Story:

Women are often forced to relieve the traumatic event they experienced when in court seeking justice, as survivor Phindile Ngcobo relates from her experience.

Phindile was gang-raped in front of her friend when she was 27 years old during a burglary at the home she was renting. Her perpetrators were released as the case was dismissed, and Phindile was forced to see the men free, roaming the streets. The case was later moved to another magistrates court, as a representative from People Opposing Abuse (POWA) offered to help ensure justice is served. The case dragged on for a further five years, and in 2011, the perpetrators were sentenced. Phindile states that: “I am dissatisfied with the sentencing because of having to relive my trauma during the court proceeding.”

The trauma she endured inspired her to speak for women and children’s rights and to provide support to survivors of abuse and their families. In 2018, she spoke as one of the panellists at a presidential summit on GBV and femicide, which was held at the St George Hotel in Centurion.

How To Help:

The Kwanele App aims to provide support to survivors by offering trauma debriefing within 24 hours of the traumatic event. This is called Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD), and studies have shown that survivors who received CISD within the first 24-72 hours following a traumatic incident had fewer reactions and less psychological trauma. In order to be able to provide this to survivors, free of charge, we need your help!

Help us provide this very necessary service to survivors and care for their mental health by donating to our organisation. Not only will this help survivors, but it will help us overcome the stigma associated with mental health. Any contribution to our organisation through donations, following us on social media or sharing our posts will enable us to help make South Africa a safer place for women and a safer place for people with mental illness. Be a part of the change.

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