Frightening statistics show between 90-95% of people have no access to mental healthcare, says Cape Mental Health


The Cape Town Kite Festival is a remarkable event that has carried the mental health awareness banner for more than 20 years.

In light of October 10 as World Mental Health Awareness Day, the theme of the 2022 CapeTown Kite Festival was #FlyYourDeams, intending to encourage children to soar against all odds, as does the kite against the strong winds, to highlight that children also face challenges, and it can be scary and frightening.

Dr. Ingrid Daniels, CEO of Cape Mental Health, said: “We want our children to have happy dreams and a hopeful vision of themselves.”

“We’ve had limitations for so long when it comes to mental health disorders. The Covid-19 pandemic has been a leveller in many ways. We speak so casually about our physical health, perhaps we need to start doing the same about mental health, we have all been impacted in varying degrees and different ways, and creating a safe spaces for mental health and mental well-being is crucial, ” Daniels told IOL Lifestyle.

“What we are seeing now is this rush to be normal, to go back to how it was pre-Covid-19. And in the rush, there’s a denial of the impact on everyone’s mental health.

There has been a spike in conditions like anxiety and depression and a greater need for mental health services as a result.

“Suicide ranks as the fourth most common cause of death among people aged 15 to 29. We need to let young people know that they are not alone and that we provide a safety net for their health in their homes and even at school. We also need to stop stigmatizing those who suffer from mental health disorders,” she said.

Mental Health disorders are the third highest burden of disease in South Africa yet investment in mental health remains extremely low.

The telltale signs are in the evidence that for every 1 US dollar invested in mental health, you get a return of 4 dollars back for the economy as well as the individual concerned.

Despite all the evidence that is available to governments around the world, including our own, there’s still such a low investment. The sad reality is that only 10% of children and adolescents have access to mental health facilities. The more frightening statistics show that between 90-95% of the affected have no access to mental health care, and that’s an indication that something is fundamentally wrong.

Mental health issues have significant implications for the economy. According to the World Bank, if governments do not invest in mental health, the global economy will lose $30-trillion annually.

Daniels says that there has been little investment in mental health, with only 5% of the budget in South Africa designated for this purpose.

“If we fail to invest in mental health care we are going to have a crippled economy because we are going to have youth going into adulthood unable to support the economy because they’re are not well enough.”

On the positive side, she said, people were becoming more comfortable asking for help; “we have more people calling in saying they’d like to speak to someone, which is what we’re aiming for.”

Cape Mental health discovered in a study they conducted at two schools in the Western Cape running mental health-based school programs during the Covid period, that 65% of learners were experiencing mental challenges but did not seek help.

“That’s a gigantic problem. We need to change the narrative about mental health in schools, even at home as we do with conditions like asthma or diabetes because in our conversations we are saving lives.”

“We want to change the notion that sharing how you’re feeling is weak. In our role as parents, we need to recognize when our children exhibit uncharacteristic behaviours and that should raise alarm bells.

“It’s not uncommon for adolescents to not have the right vocabulary when it comes to describing how they feel, so the word depression may not mean anything to them. An active child may start acting withdrawn, while a student who did well academically may begin performing poorly at school. These are alarms that parents should identify which tell their children they are experiencing something,” advised Daniels.

Early detection of mental illness among kids is crucial.

“The earlier we detect, the earlier we intervene, and the earlier help arrives. Additionally, if we want to compete in the global market, we need to make sure that we restore the mental health of our citizens. “

“What is lacking is that mental health is not prioritized at the school level; whenever mental health services are required, a diagnosis has already been made. We need to raise awareness about mental health issues all year, not just on awareness days, said Daniels.

“We need school-based mental health programs and school mental health audits of learners. ‘For example, if 40% of learners have suicidal ideation, so many have been bullied. We are aware of the situation and can help accordingly in the curriculum. It’s not just NGOs that (should) talk about mental health. It needs to be a daily thing with early detection, early identification, prevention, and resilience-enhancing programs. “

“Life happens; we can’t necessarily change all the socials conditions happening in South Africa but we need to give our children the tools to cope”

“We need to adapt and create child-friendly mental health services, at state facilities, schools, and NGOs that have a multi-sectoral approach on how to deal with providing mental health services that are cost-effective,” said Daniels.

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