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Govt urged to step up efforts to help medical staff cope with workload

Medical doctors, especially women, are having to grapple with personal mental health issues over and above their heavy work load.

Picture: Pexels

JOHANNESBURG - Medical doctors, especially women, are having to grapple with personal mental health issues over and above their heavy workload.

According to the South African Medical Association, a global study among medical specialists has revealed that staff are twice as susceptible to mental health problems compared to professionals in other sectors.

Today, Eyewitness News looks at the impact of mental health on public servants as part of a wide ranging look into the state of South Africa’s health.

After a heart monitor is switched off and a body bag is zipped up, doctors have to deliver the devastating news of the loss of life to a waiting family and not a minute too long - they have to rush again to save someone else’s life.

This is the reality for many medical professionals.

And for those working in state hospitals, they speak of burnout and major depression as they contend with many other challenges including overstretched resources and staff, often leading to working overtime.

Professor Bernard Janse van Rensburg is a psychiatrist at the Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg.

He said that several doctors in the private and government sectors were suicidal because of these extreme working conditions.

"There's a confirmed increased risk of being depressed, having anxiety disorders that leads to higher figures of suicides."

Dr Nokukhanya Khanyile is an advocate for mental health awareness in her field and works in a government hospital.

She admitted that her own mental health had taken its toll due to the pressures and scale of her work.

"For me, if I don’t keep going, it’s going to all come down and crash but I have to keep going because other people depend on me. You know, it’s a feeling of guilt because I’m betraying myself. But at the same time, I’m doing my duty, I’m fulfilling my duty."

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) urged government to step up efforts to help medical staff who were struggling to cope, highlighting that negligent doctors put patients' lives at risk.

WATCH: Stigma around mental health keeps doctors vulnerable to depression

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