The year in mental health: spotlight on well-being

It’s all about feeling good and functioning well, mentally and emotionally. Picture: Pexels/Gustavo Fring

It’s all about feeling good and functioning well, mentally and emotionally. Picture: Pexels/Gustavo Fring

Published Dec 28, 2023


Mental health and well-being are topics that are gaining traction in South Africa as more people are recognising the importance of caring for their mental health.

In the past, mental health was often stigmatised and misunderstood but today, South Africans are exploring new holistic therapies and approaches to support mental well-being.

Mental well-being refers to a state of overall well-being in which an individual realises their own abilities and can cope with the normal stresses of life. Picture: Pexels/cottonbro studio

Mental well-being refers to a state of overall well-being in which an individual realises their own abilities, and can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully and can make a contribution to their community. It’s all about feeling good and functioning well, mentally and emotionally.

The shift towards holistic therapies

Traditional therapies such as counselling and medication have long been the primary treatments for mental health challenges. However, there is a growing interest in holistic therapies that encompass a broader approach to mental well-being.

The therapies focus on the interconnectedness of the mind, body and spirit, and often include practices such as mindfulness, yoga, meditation and aromatherapy.

Exercising for mental health

South Africans are becoming increasingly open to diverse means of promoting mental well-being. For example, exercise and physical activity have been recognised as effective tools for managing stress and anxiety.

Many people are turning to activities like running, dancing and outdoor adventures to improve their mental health. Additionally, creative expression through art, music and writing is being embraced as a form of therapy to enhance emotional resilience and self-awareness.

Mental well-being in the workplace

Recognising the impact of mental health on productivity and overall well-being, workplaces in South Africa are beginning to prioritise mental health support for employees.

Employee assistance programmes, mental health days and stress management workshops are becoming more common in corporate environments. Employers are also seeking to create supportive and inclusive work cultures that foster open conversations about mental health and provide resources for seeking help.

Corporate South Africa is recognising the importance of promoting workplace well-being and implementing various initiatives to support their employees' mental health.

Some of the approaches companies are using:

Mental health awareness programmes

Many companies are organising workshops, seminars and training sessions to raise awareness about mental health issues and reduce stigma in the workplace. These programmes aim to educate employees about mental health, provide support, and promote a culture of understanding and empathy.

Employee Assistance Programs

EAPs are confidential counselling services provided by employers to help employees deal with personal issues, including mental health challenges. The programmes offer professional support and guidance to employees facing various mental health issues.

Flexible work arrangements

Offering flexible work schedules and remote work options can help employees achieve a better work-life balance, reduce stress and promote mental well-being.

Supportive work environment

Creating a supportive and inclusive work environment where employees feel valued, respected and heard is essential for promoting mental well-being. Open communication, supportive leadership and a culture of empathy contribute to a positive work environment.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness is a mental practice that involves focusing on the present moment while acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. Meditation is a technique used to train attention and awareness, achieving a mentally clear, emotionally calm and stable state.

Mindfulness and meditation have gained popularity in South Africa as effective practices for reducing stress, anxiety and depression while promoting mental clarity and emotional balance.


The ancient practices combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation to enhance physical and mental well-being. In South Africa, many people have turned to yoga and tai chi to alleviate stress, improve concentration and cultivate a sense of inner peace.

Art and Dance therapy

Creative therapies such as art and dance are being used to engage individuals in self-expression and promote emotional healing. The therapies provide a non-verbal outlet for exploring and communicating feelings, thus supporting mental and emotional well-being.

Mental well-being is a vital aspect of our overall health, and South Africa is embracing holistic approaches to support mental and emotional health. People are exploring a variety of holistic therapies and workplaces are implementing strategies to promote mental health and well-being among employees.

As awareness and understanding of mental health continue to grow, individuals and organisations need to prioritise mental well-being and create supportive environments that foster mental and emotional resilience.

Diet and mental health

The journey to mental well-being is deeply personal and unique to each individual. It involves understanding and addressing one’s emotional and psychological needs while recognising the influence of lifestyle factors.

Simple practices such as maintaining a balanced diet, prioritising sleep, and cultivating meaningful social connections can significantly contribute to overall mental well-being.

The importance of seeking help

Above all, it’s important to emphasise the significance of seeking professional help when necessary. Mental health professionals, including psychologists, therapists and counsellors, play an invaluable role in providing support and guidance for those navigating mental health challenges.

The process of finding the right support and treatment is an essential part of the journey toward mental well-being.

The evolving landscape of mental health and well-being in South Africa is encouraging, as individuals and communities are increasingly embracing holistic approaches to nurture their mental health.

By exploring new therapies, redefining well-being and fostering supportive environments, the path to mental resilience and flourishing mental health becomes within reach for more South Africans.