South Africa: Silent Epidemic - Families Need to Talk About Mental Health - for the Sake of South African Youth

Diepsloot in South Africa (file photo).
opinion

While many South Africans fear the deadly effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is another epidemic that runs rampant among young South Africans -- mental illness. This epidemic strikes silently, and sufferers often don't seek help.

Young South Africans are disproportionately affected by depression and anxiety, even more so with the challenges of the lockdown and its isolating effects. While lockdown regulations have been somewhat relaxed recently, the effects still linger.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) has reported a major increase in depression and anxiety, which could lead to suicidal thoughts, following the lockdown. Suicide and depression are nothing new to the youth, however. In 2017 Sadag reported the youngest-ever suicide in South Africa, that of a six-year-old boy. A 2011 study found that a quarter of grade 8-11 learners across South Africa, had experienced symptoms of depression, with one in six having thought about committing suicide or had made plans to do so.

Another study found that one in every four South African university students are depressed. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds.

Yet, few seem willing to listen. Mental illness is not...

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