Meggan Ceylon, Carine Smallberger, Ronel Bester, Jimmy Volmink, Pearl Pretorius, Hermien Nel and Florence de Vries of Stellenbosch University were part of the global #CrazySocks4Docs initiative that aims to raise awareness and give moral support to medical professionals battling mental health issues. Photo: Supplied
Cape Town – Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences staff wore “crazy” socks earlier this month to raise awareness and give moral support to medical professionals battling mental health issues, by reminding them they are not alone.

As part of a global initiative, #Crazy Socks4Docs, health experts warned the mental strain on medical professionals working in South Africa can be enormous. 

It is well-documented that levels of depression and mental fatigue are particularly high among professionals who dedicate their lives to the treatment of others.

According to a study published this year in the South African Family Practice journal, 30% of public primary healthcare doctors are living with moderate to severe depression.

At the same time, it is estimated that around a third of South African medical students have suicidal thoughts, and that over 6% of medical students attempt suicide, according to research published in the SA medical journal.

Last year, renowned South African cardiologist Professor Bongani Mayosi, took his own life. The family of the UCT health sciences dean had said Mayosi had been battling depression for two years.

Committed to address these statistics, the Ithemba Foundation and the sock manufacturer Falke, and pharmaceutical group Cipla, partnered to launch the #CrazySocks4Docs campaign in South Africa on June 7. The initiative was started in Australia in 2017.

As part of the #CrazySocks4Docs campaign in South Africa, the organisations donated 12 000 pairs of socks to medical professionals and medical students around the country.

On the day, pre-school pupils, students, healthcare workers, as well as the general public, joined the movement by wearing their colourful, silly socks and posting photos to social media with #CrazySocks4Docs and #ithembafoundation in a show of solidarity to all of the medical professionals and students with depression.

Ithemba Foundation founder Professor Lizette Rabe said widespread change is needed to tackle the problem of depression and suicide.

“Part of making a difference is to encourage conversations about mental health and help reduce the stigma for doctors and medical students experiencing mental illness.”

If you are or someone you know has a mental health condition, or suicidal thoughts and are in need of help, call the Cipla 24-hour mental health helpline on 0800 456 789 or WhatsApp 076 882 2775 for free counselling from the SA Depression and Anxiety Group.

Cape Times