Young people with mental health-related issues do not seek help, according to Unicef


A recent Unicef report found that 65% of young people with mental health-related issues do not seek help.

Although the mental health epidemic in South Africa is affecting people of all ages, it is perhaps our children who are suffering in silence the most.

Being a child in today’s world is seemingly far more challenging than before. Many children find themselves having to navigate compounded stress from the pandemic, such as home financial difficulty, isolation from their peers, and academic difficulties that can lead to the development of mental disorders like anxiety and depression.

Aimee Wesso-Roberts, Head of Lifestyle and Wellness Management at AfroCentric Group subsidiary Medscheme, says support from parents can play an essential role in getting our children the support they need.

According to research, detecting and treating mental problems early can stop them from getting worse, stop coexisting disorders from developing, or at the very least, manage the effects of a mental health diagnosis better.

Wesso-Roberts says that early intervention could help prevent negative side effects of poor mental health, such as substance abuse (drugs and alcohol), unsafe sexual behaviour (raising the chance of HIV infection), and other social problems.

Teenagers’ exposure to social media has also been found to have a significant detrimental impact, hence it is important to control these websites and mobile apps.

Helping your children lay a foundation in these areas can help relieve stress, improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Pictures by Luke Porter/unsplash

Parents and caregivers can play an important role in creating a safe environment for their children. This includes involvement in their children’s lives, providing a safe, positive home environment, and fostering a relationship built on trust.

Anxiety disorders, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are the three most prevalent mental disorders in children, according to SA Child Gauge, an annual publication of the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town that tracks progress toward realizing children’s rights.

Wesso-Roberts recommends looking out for the following signs:

  • Persistent sadness that lasts two weeks or more
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria.

Certain disorders affect children’s learning, behaviour, and handling of emotions, including learning and developmental disabilities, autism, and risk factors like substance use and self-harm.

Childhood mental health means achieving developmental, emotional, and social milestones as well as learning how to cope when problems arise.

The cost and physical access of mental healthcare is perhaps its greatest barrier for the majority of people in this country, said Wesso-Roberts.

There is hope that digital interventions through telemedicine will continue to make psychological support more accessible and affordable for people, especially children. Mental disorders are chronic health conditions— that can only be managed through treatment and often don’t go away completely.

Mental wellness among our children may also be supported by lifestyle behaviours to help them build resilience and healthy relationships.

To broaden the scope of potential interventions, reducing the likelihood and improve healthcare, integrated and multidisciplinary services are required.

“Exercise, nutrition, and healthy social life are (also) critical in all our lives,” added Wesso-Roberts.

Helping your children lay a foundation in these areas can help relieve stress, improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.



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