CLOSE to 10 000 new people have been treated for mental health disorders in primary healthcare centres since the beginning of Covid-19, says the provincial Health Department. Picture: Pexels
CLOSE to 10 000 new people have been treated for mental health disorders in primary healthcare centres since the beginning of Covid-19, says the provincial Health Department. Picture: Pexels

KZN Health Dept dealt with 10 000 new mental disorder since beginning of Covid pandemic

By Gcwalisile Khanyile Time of article published Jun 25, 2021

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Durban - CLOSE to 10 000 new people have been treated for mental health disorders in primary healthcare centres since the beginning of Covid-19, says the provincial Health Department.

Department spokesperson Ntokozo Maphisa said they had nearly 10 000 new patients being treated for mental disorders. These figures fell in the 2020/2021 financial year.

Of these, he said, 8 000 were forced to be admitted to mental healthcare facilities.

“For mental healthcare users who attend outpatients departments and are identified as needing admission, the processes as outlined in the Mental Health Care Act, will need to be followed. This includes referring them to the relevant facilities offering mental health admission.”

About 3 600 mental health clients stayed in facilities for more than three days.

“These statistics are, however, not specific for Covid-19-related mental health matters, but incorporate mental health as a whole.”

He encouraged those with mental healthcare challenges, or their relatives, to come forward, by visiting their nearest clinics for screening, assessment, and referral letters to institutions that provide a higher level of care.

Despite the disruptive impact of Covid-19, Maphisa said the department continued to provide mental healthcare services in earnest where 11.9 million people were screened for mental disorders in the province’s primary clinics.

The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) said without knowing the results of the screening process, it was impossible to determine the meaning, as the screening itself did not imply anything about the actual prevalence of mental health disorders.

HPCSA spokesperson Priscilla Sekhonyana said: “Some of the social determinants of mental health disorders include unemployment, poverty, inequality and violence, which vary by province, and all of which are compounded by the impact of the Covid pandemic as well as the necessary lockdown measures.”

She said it was unclear if KwaZulu-Natal had a higher proportion of people with mental disorders than other provinces.

“Previous research has suggested that the Western Cape and the Free State had the highest prevalence of mental disorders, while the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape had prevalence rates that were significantly lower than the countrywide average.”

KZN Childline Acting Director Adeshini Niacker said the number of mental health cases had been on the increase recently, especially during the lockdown.

“While a percentage can be attributed to the loss of employment and related issues, sadly, the number of Gender-Based Violence and child abuse incidents also drastically increased since the onset of the pandemic.”

Naicker said that while the lockdown kept the virus under control, it unfortunately, created a pandemic of a different crime with a rise in the crime statistics.

The statistics showed that 23 000 minors visited mental health centres.

Earlier this week, the Daily News reported that there was a huge increase in a number of people in need of mental health care services.

Professor Bonga Chiliza, president of the Society for Psychiatry, said many doctors and nurses were anxious, traumatised and seeing psychiatrists.

He also raised concerns about an increase in the number of adolescents who were seeking psychiatric help, and called on the government to increase a number of community-based, outpatient psychiatric services.

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