More than 1200 South Africans participated in a survey by pharmaceutical company Pharma Dynamics which explores how mental wellness has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Approximately 56% of the participants reported having higher levels of emotional and psychological distress during the pandemic than before, and dealt with this in a number of ways.
A total of 81% of respondents turned to food, 20% to alcohol, 6% to smoking marijuana, 22% to anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication, while 18% turned to cigarettes to help cope.
A total of 61% admitted to not taking care of their health, while 52% said they struggle sleeping.
Approximately 49% of the respondents reported feeling anxious, while 6% contemplated suicide. A total of 31% reported feeling depressed, while 48% felt overwhelming feelings of frustration.
Most participants who had also had “personal experiences” with COVID-19 also reported exacerbated anxiety levels.
“The disruptions in routine and economic activity that the pandemic has caused, has had a devastating impact on mental health. Record high unemployment levels, economic uncertainty – both locally and abroad, having to social distance and isolate ourselves, taking on additional childcare responsibilities (home schooling) while juggling work and the constant fear of contracting the virus are all factors that increase anxiety and stress,” said Abdurahman Kenny, Mental Health Portfolio Manager at Pharma Dynamics.
“We are likely to see much higher rates of mental illness among South Africans post the pandemic and need to increase psychosocial support efforts to avoid a COVID-19 related mental health crisis,”
He continued: “The fact that nearly half (49%) of respondents wanted to reach out to a therapist for help during the pandemic, but couldn’t due to limited financial resources or access, highlights decades of neglect and underinvestment in mental health services in our country. Due to the sheer size of the problem, most mental health needs remain unaddressed and have been hindered by a lack of funds in mental health promotion, prevention and care.
“Much more needs to be done to protect those facing mounting mental pressure. The psychological well-being of our communities and society at large requires immediate attention.”
Here are hotlines and websites on how to prevent a suicide and where to get help for yourself or a loved one in South Africa:
The South African Depression and Anxiety Support Group: http://www.sadag.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1496&Itemid=59
Helpline: 0800 21 22 23 (8am to 8pm)
Helpline: 0800 12 13 14 (8pm to 8am)