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Child Gauge shows harrowing mental health of SA’s children

SA Child Gauge contributors gather for the launch of the newest edition on Child and Adolescent Mental Health. Picture: Shakirah Thebus/Cape Argus

SA Child Gauge contributors gather for the launch of the newest edition on Child and Adolescent Mental Health. Picture: Shakirah Thebus/Cape Argus

Published Jun 20, 2022

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Cape Town - More than 90 contributors have put together what is considered a bible within the children’s sector, for advancing children’s rights in South Africa.

The UCT Children’s Institute released its annual publication, the South African Child Gauge 2021/22, in partnership with Unicef SA, the DSI-NRF Centre for Excellence in Human Development, University of the Witwatersrand, the Standard Bank Tutuwa Community Foundation, and the LEGO Foundation.

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First published in 2005, this year’s gauge was released on the eve of Youth Day, titled Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

One author, Lori Lake, said the gauge aims to enhance and transform service delivery for children. Very often, she said, the gauge is referred to as the bible of the children’s sector.

“We’re looking at between 10-20% of children and adolescents in the country likely to have a diagnosed mental disorder. Of those children, only one in 10 is likely to access treatment – a massive treatment gap.”

Some 63% of South African children live in poverty and 39% of children live beneath the food poverty line.

Nearly one in two children in South Africa (42%) experienced violence including physical violence (35%) and sexual abuse (35%).

“These children and adolescents are at particular risk of poorer mental health, which can perpetuate an intergenerational cycle of poverty, violence and ill health,” Children’s Institute director, Professor Shanaaz Mathews said.

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Over 50% of adult mental health disorders are established by age 14.

Stellenbosch University Institute for Life Course Health Research co-director, Professor Mark Tomlinson said: “Prevention work cannot start at a diagnosis, it has to start early.”

Unicef SA Country Representative Christine Muhigana said Unicef’s SA U-Report found 65% of young people with mental health issues did not seek help.

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“More than a quarter did not think their mental health problem was serious enough to seek support; another 20% did not know where to get the help, and 18% were afraid what people would think.”

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Cape Argus

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