65% of young people have mental health issues, but do not seek help
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Johannesburg – Poverty, Covid-19 and a sense of hopelessness is taking its toll on the mental health of South Africa children and youth, with 65% admitting in a UN poll to suffering from some form of mental health issue but not seeking help.
This is according to a UN Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef) South Africa report garnered from the latest Unicef South Africa U-Report poll.
The poll found that increased poverty and a lack of hope for the future were the top reasons given for children and young people’s anxiety, showing a shift from violence as the lead reason in a poll six months ago.
Unicef South Africa representative Christine Muhigana said there was still stigma around mental health issues that prevented young people from seeking help.
“Even before the pandemic, far too many children were living with mental health issues that were not being discussed or dealt with,” said Muhigana.
Muhigana said warned that children and young people could feel the impact of Covid-19 on their mental health and well-being for many years to come.
“Today, so many children and young people have lost family members, missed out on seeing friends, had their education disrupted, and see a future with fewer opportunities to thrive,” Mahigana said.
The report found that more than a quarter of respondents didn’t think their mental health problem was serious enough to seek support, while 20% did not know where to get help and 18% were afraid of what people would think.
Unicef South Africa and partners are working on helping to improve mental health support for young people through technical and financial support for Childline SA and Safe Parks, that protect and empower vulnerable children and youth.
Other measures include access to opportunities through the Generation Unlimited initiative for young people to acquire work mentorships, digital skills, and entrepreneurship opportunities.
Unicef South Africa has also called for support for children and young people by addressing stigma and promoting better understanding of mental health issues, as well supporting and empowering parents, caregivers, children and young people to seek advice and access quality mental health and psychosocial support services.