Has your mental health been affected by the disruptions caused by COVID-19? The theme for 2020 World Mental Health Day on October 10 is Move for mental health: let’s invest because experts believe that the pandemic will create an increased need for mental health and psychological support for months and years to come.
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health for us to be productive and to enjoy what life has to offer. However, across the world budgets for mental health care are far below those for other public health services.
For example, in South Africa, only about 5% of the national health budget is allocated to mental health.
Even before the pandemic, mental disorders were among the main causes of disability and ill-health, but around 75% of people worldwide do not have access to quality mental health care. Adding to the problem are the stigma and discrimination still associated with mental illness.
The changes in everyday life, loneliness, anxiety, fear, and loss of income caused by the COVID-19 restrictions triggered renewed mental health symptoms in many of those who were previously affected as well as in many persons without any history of mental illness. The SA Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) reported that the calls to their helpline doubled during the initial lockdown period.
The most common of mental health problems are depression and anxiety which respond well to appropriate treatment. Other mental health disorders, all of which are treatable, include alcohol and drug dependence, psychoses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, suicide and attempted suicide.
As an individual, you can take steps to invest in your mental health and well-being and reduce the risk of mental illness. Increase your resilience through effective stress management by making time for exercise, meditation or prayer, and things you enjoy such as socialising and creative activities. Also reach out to family, friends, and others in your community who may need care and support.
Doing What Matters in Times of Stress: An Illustrated Guide, with accompanying audio exercises, provides practical skills to help anyone cope with stress. The guide was published by the World Health Organisation and can be accessed at https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240003927.
Reach out for help if you get to a point where you feel that you’re no longer coping with life. It may be enough just to talk to someone you can trust but if you are experiencing severe symptoms you should get professional assistance. You can call the SADAG helpline on 0800 456 789 any time of the day or night, or call Childline on 08 000 55 555, or Lifeline on 086 1322 322.