TUESDAY marked World Mental Health day under the theme, Mental health in the workplace. It is reported that more than 260 million people are living with anxiety disorders, while a recent World Health Organisation (WHO)-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1trillion (R13.5 trillion) each year in lost productivity.
Bringing the issue closer to home, research showed at least 10% of South Africans suffer from depression, with mental disorder costing the country more than R232bn a year, as a result of lost productivity. An additional staggering 41.9% of women in SA are affected by depression or related mental health issues – that’s nearly half of us. But more worryingly, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) believes that less than 16% of sufferers are receiving treatment. Changing these stats to healthier ones will depend on our willingness to speak up and seek help when we need it.
Mental disorder knows no boundaries as both young and old, rich and poor as well as famous and not so famous people have and continue to struggle with it on a daily basis. South African media personalities are not strangers to mental health disorders with names such as Bonnie Mbuli, Vuyiselwa Botha and many others having confessed to have been diagnosed with mental problems in the past. On the world stage, Prince Harry is another one who has in the past come out with his very own affliction.
The prince has just announced his own initiative which seeks to tackle this scourge to the armed forces and their families who will be given new mental health training to deal with military life under an initiative between the ministry of defence and the young royals. In 2014, television presenter and actress, Bonnie Mbuli revealed her battle with clinical depression in her 2014 memoir Eyebags & Dimples criticising society’s obsession with perfectionism and addressing the social stigma surrounding depression. “I didn’t want to take medicines in the beginning I fought it. I didn’t want to constantly have to confirm every morning that I wasn’t perfect. I didn’t want to keep reminding myself that I had flaws,” Mbuli said. But in seeking treatment, The Afternoon Express host got the medical help she needed.
Another well known personality who struggled with mental illness is Vuyelwa Booi who despite the bubbly persona harboured a dark secret, a long-running battle against depression. Speaking to the Metro FM breakfast team yesterday Joanna Kleovolou, said one in five South Africans have knowingly or not, faced mental health problems in their lives. “We need to destigmatise mental illness and create awareness in a way that does not discriminate. The trick is to find more information so that families and victims can move forward without conflict, but with clear understanding,” she said. In as far as the stigma is concerned, Kleovolou said in the past families have used force and other means to get their family members treated which gave in to stigmas that continue to this day. “People used straight jackets.
The old stories can be frightening and fear based and with lack of understanding, it is easy to put people in boxes,” she said. Kleovolou said because mental illness was a chronic condition, sufferers needed to take their medication and should not be judged when doing so. “Irritability is one of the symptoms of mental disorder and the patient needs to go back to psychiatric treatment when they are losing touch or not coping well,” she said.