Cape Town - People with severe mental illness die too soon, according to a research paper.
It was published in The Lancet Psychiatry recently, titled “Gone Too Soon: priorities for action to prevent premature mortality associated with mental illness and mental distress”. The paper was written by 40 global experts, including head of the Department of Psychiatry at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Professor Soraya Seedat.
The report followed an extensive road mapping process of evidence reviews and consultation with mental health researchers, clinicians, policy experts and people with lived and living experience of mental illnesses and suicide.
The group mapped the range of factors which increase the risk of early mortality for people who are suffering from mental health conditions.
These include adversities such as traumatic life events, unemployment, stigma and marginalisation, lack of meaningful societal relationships, and poor access to healthcare, education, housing, and income security.
“One in three South Africans has a mental health condition, and mental disorders rank among the top ten leading causes of disease burden in South Africa,” said Seedat, who is also co-director of the SA Medical Research Council’s Unit on Anxiety and Stress Disorders.
“Physical health conditions and suicide are the two foremost reasons why people with mental illness die many years earlier than people without any mental illness.
“Both are preventable and need to be prioritised, as too do other factors that contribute to the increased risk of premature death, such as trauma exposure, unemployment, income insecurity, social exclusion, stigma and poor access to healthcare.”
Delivering integrated healthcare, community-based interventions, restriction of access to lethal means of suicide, reduction of inequalities as well as increased investment in mental health services and research were among the 18 recommendations outlined in the paper.