How South Africans Can Gain Easier Access to Mental Health Help

South Africa faces a severe mental health burden compounded by a chronic shortage of mental health practitioners in the public sector. Over 30% of those living in South Africa have experienced a depressive, anxiety, or substance use disorder in their lifetime, according to a national survey. Yet studies show only 15% of those with mental health conditions receive treatment, writes Laura Owings for Spotlight.

"There are simply not enough psychiatrists to go around," says Professor Crick Lund, Director of the Alan J. Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health at the University of Cape Town. "Community health workers have a potentially valuable role to play in identifying and providing mental health interventions for mild-to-moderate disorders like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, and with monitoring for relapse among people with severe conditions," Lund says.

A community-based approach to mental health services is also supported by the World Health Organisation. Guidance on the practice, published by the body in June 2021, calls it "a vision of mental health care with the highest standards of respect for human rights and gives hope for a better life to millions of people with mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities, and their families, worldwide."



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