Mental Health is key in society. Pexels / David Garrison
Mental Health is key in society. Pexels / David Garrison

How mental health has become the main focus in society

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Aug 22, 2021

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It’s safe to say that these are uncertain times we are in and the pressure on people’s mental health has possibly never been greater.

Whether you are adjusting to a new work-home situation, the loss of a job, or grieving the loss of a loved one; the weight of these unprecedented times can be heavy, and significantly impact our mental health.

Covid-19 is the cause of much of the stresses that many people are facing on a daily basis. Health fears, isolation and loneliness, as a result of working from home coupled with financial worries due to salary reductions, or possibly a partner losing their job, are a few common examples of the challenges people are facing.

Globally, mental health professionals have predicted that the pandemic is going to impact significantly over time on the mental health of everyone. There is predicted increase in cases of depression, suicide, and self-harm due to Covid-19, and other related symptoms reported internationally.

According to the SA Depression & Anxiety Group (SADAG), the impact of Covid-19 and the resultant lockdown restrictions have led to an increase in the number of calls that the organisation has received from people showing signs of depression. This means that conversations,related such as the ones happening at SADAG, are important when fighting the stigma related to mental health issues.

Taking care of one's mental health has become a bigger priority.

A study conducted by the Indian Psychiatric Society showed a 20% increase in mental illnesses since the coronavirus outbreak in that country. A meta-analysis on mental health and Covid-19 among the general population in China also estimates that the prevalence of anxiety in that country is believed to be around 31.9%, and depression around 33.7%.

In all aspects of our lives the current pandemic has had an impact.

Sport

United States' Simone Biles performs on the balance beam during the gymnastics exhibition gala at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles pulled out of the team final because of a 'mental issue' at the Tokyo Olympics tournament, last month.

The 24-year-old gymnast who had been expected to lead the US to gold in the team event - was withdrawn from the line-up for mental issues.

Simone’s decision to pull out of the competition came just days after the athlete opened up about her struggle to cope with the pressure of this year's Olympics.

Mental health among high performing stars seems to be prevalent with many choosing their mental health over gold medals.

Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open saying she gets "huge waves of anxiety" when dealing with the press. The 23-year-old Japanese tennis pro was fined $15,000 for skipping a post-match press conference, and then pulled out of the tournament altogether when she was threatened with expulsion.

"I get really nervous and find it stressful to always engage and give you the best answers I can," Osaka, who is currently the number two female tennis player in the world, wrote on Instagram. "So here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences."

These athletes' decisions sparked the much needed conversation around mental health in sports.

Workplace

Working from home can be an isolating and challenging time, particularly as many people need to adjust to this new way of getting their jobs done.

Forced to contend with these additional stressors while still having to work, many employees are facing unexpected challenges with their mental well-being and needing support while at their jobs.

According to an online survey on Covid-19 and Mental Health, conducted in April by SADAG 59% of the surveyed people suffered from stress prior to the lockdown and 65% felt stressed during the lockdown.

These statistics point to the reality that almost every person will experience some sort of mental illness during their lifetime.

Many experts say that the worrying issue is not the fact that people suffer from mental illnesses, but rather, the stigma that is attached to it, which can hamper the way forward to help those who suffer from such an illness. The workplace plays an important role when it comes to building a way forward, and the need for both employers and employees to be able to create and develop understanding is vital.

Children

The ongoing stress, fear, grief and uncertainty created by the Covid-19 pandemic has weighed on all of us, but for many children and teens this has been an especially tough time to emotionally cope with overnight changes in their realities.

Children may find it more difficult to express themselves. Dr Langa Mngoma, medical doctor and psychiatry register, said while speaking to Dr Nokukanya Khanyile on Mental Matters, that parents need to pay close attention to their kids’ behaviour.

“When it comes to kids, they struggle to express themselves. A lot of times you will notice the change in behaviour. Kids will become more withdrawn when playing and they won’t engage as much as they do. They might not have much appetite as they used to have and they might be changes in sleeping patterns.’’

“Most times, because children struggle to express themselves, there are things that need to be observed, such as tantrums, outbursts and more crying than usual. It can be very overwhelming, mainly because they can’t express themselves,’’ said Mngoma.

“Sometimes, we underestimate the fact that children are also processing change. We need to talk to them in an age appropriate way. To try and contain their emotional world, “ said Mngoma.

In all aspects of our lives it’s now more important than ever to take care and guard our mental health.

When a new challenge arises, you may need new ways to deal with it. The first step is often to own up to your reality and find a way to make the most of what can be a set of difficult circumstances.

If you are concerned about yourself or someone who you care about you can contact the following:

  • Your local clinic
  • South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG): 0800212223
  • Lifeline: 0861322322
  • Your GP – they may refer you to an appropriate service
  • Religious, spiritual or community centres
  • Akeso Clinic Group: 0861 HELP US (4357 87) or Akeso Randburg: 087 098 0457
  • Befrienders South Africa: 051 444 5691

This article first appeared in Sunday Insider, August 22, 2021

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