How do I know if I have a mental health issue and where can I go for help?
This is a resource of places you can find emotional support and mental illness assistance.
JOHANNESBURG - Mental health has been thrust into the news cycle more since the start of the pandemic. Counsellors agree that it's an old challenge with serious implications if not attended to.
A month ago, the South African Anxiety and Depression Group (Sadag) said it received over half a million calls from citizens seeking help over the lockdown. The pandemic had a severe impact on South Africans' mental health, many of the calls made to Sadag were from people suffering from anxiety about their finances, job losses and the wellbeing of their children. The NGO now receives on average of 1,400 calls per day, which is up from around 600 before the pandemic.
Miss South Africa Shudufhadzo Musida also pledged to focus on mental health issues during her reign. But that doesn't mean the stigma attached mental illnesses to people who open up about their mental health challenges isn't there anymore.
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES AND MENTAL ILLNESS - WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
According to the United States' Mayo Clinic, "a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function".
These illnesses are often unseen as they affect the brain's function. But it doesn't make them any less severe. The issues can cause problems in your relationships, at work and with your connection with yourself. In grave cases, some people attempt to hurt themselves or suicide.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A MENTAL ILLNESS?
These are some of the symptoms of a mental illness, which vary according to the disorder someone might have.
- Feeling sad or down
- Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
- Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
- Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
- Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
- Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
- Problems with alcohol or drug abuse
- Major changes in eating habits
- Sex drive changes
- Excessive anger, hostility or violence
- Thoughts of suicide
- Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headaches, or other unexplained aches and pains.
WHEN SHOULD I SEE A DOCTOR?
Should you be experiencing a few of the symptoms above, it is best to go to your GP and explain what is going on. They might refer you to a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Most South Africans do not have medical insurance to afford sessions with a psychologist. According to Sadag, 81% of South Africans don't have access to medical aid. Costs for private help can be anything between R500 and R2,000. But there are places that have free services. You can find some help here.
Sadag Mental Health Line: The South African Depression and Anxiety Group says at least 23 people commit suicide daily. While conversations about mental health on mainstream media increase awareness many people still feel disenfranchised and prefer to confide in someone or keep their challenges to themselves according to Sadag. They have since created a safe environment for those who have no one to talk to. They can be contacted on 0800 4567 789 or WhatsApp 076 88 22 775 and for suicidal emergency, dial 0800 567 567
South African Federation for Mental Health:
Tel: 0861 322 322
Cape Mental Health:
Tel: +27 21 447 9040
Destiny Helpline for Youth & Students: Sadag research revealed that 9% of all teen deaths are due to suicide. The NGO says the 15-24 age group, suicide is the second leading and fastest-growing cause of death. Services tailor-made for young people, from tools to deal with exam stress to help with mental illnesses, can be accessed with a phone call to Destiny Helpline for Youth & Students on 0800 41 42 43.
QueerWell: This organisation is a safe space for members of the LGBTQI+ community seeking support.
The Department of Social Department offers support to people struggling with substance abuse: 0800 12 13 14 and SMS line 32312.
Find a Support Group in your area: The Sadag resource centre has shared a helpline for people looking for a support group near where they stay through this number: 0800 21 22 23. It's called TherapyRoute.
All the above contact details are set up centrally to give service nationally.
Here are some other resource centres in some of the country's major cities: