Cape Town - With unaddressed mental health disorders a growing problem, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) will be unpacking panic and anxiety disorders this month, as July marks Mental Health Awareness Month.
Throughout the month, SADAG will be collaborating with mental health experts and trained individuals to host a series of online events and campaigns aimed at increasing awareness and reducing the stigma surrounding anxiety disorders.
Health economists estimate that unaddressed mental health conditions cost the South African economy R161 billion per year due to lost days of work, presenteeism (being at work but unwell), and premature mortality.
In the Mental State of the World 2022 report, South Africa scored the lowest average on the mental health wellbeing scale, measured across 34 countries from around the world. Additionally, and the World Mental Health Report 2022 estimated the rise in both anxiety and depressive disorders at more than 25% during the first year of the pandemic.
Professor Renata Schoeman, Head of Healthcare Leadership at Stellenbosch Business School, says that although COVID-19 had raised the need for organisations to protect their employees’ mental health and well-being, very few were succeeding in making a concerted and relevant effort as part of their attraction and retention programs.
“Employees are seeking workplace environments where management cares as much about their productivity as they do about their emotional well-being. Emotionally well-supported employees are happier, less stressed and anxious, more creative, productive and have higher levels of job satisfaction which leads to low staff turn-overs and less conflict,” she said.
Zane Wilson, the Founder of SADAG said he had struggled for many years with undiagnosed panic disorder, having up to six attacks a day.
“It got so bad that I was unable to drive or even go shopping. After 10 years and many attempts to resolve them, I finally received the correct diagnosis and treatment. Although it was a massive undertaking, with the correct solutions, I got better much faster than expected. 30 years later, disorders like mine are much easier to identify and treat, and there are now endless resources that can alleviate people’s suffering,” she said.
Wilson said she started a panic support group.
“Starting a Panic Support Group over 30 years ago was a huge undertaking. Since then, we have opened many support groups and provided resources that have achieved amazing steps forward to providing fast support to people living with panic and helping them with skills (to deal with panic),” she said.
Clinical Psychologist and SADAG Board Chairperson, Dr Colinda Linde, said: “The state of Mental Healthcare in South Africa was in crisis long before Covid-19, and we need to ensure that anxiety healthcare is prioritised across all sectors, provinces, and ages, to help the growing demand for mental health services.”
Cassey Chambers SADAG Operations Director advised: “Including the patient's voice is extremely important when talking about anxiety disorders. Having insight from an expert is crucial but having the voice of a patient who has learned to cope with the Mental Health Issues is very important for people to connect and relate. We will be covering the following four topics: post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, obsessive compulsion disorder and social phobia”.