How Poverty, Violence Are Tied to Anxiety in Young South Africans

Since 2011 there has been increasing awareness of the importance of promoting good mental health in South Africa, writes Andrew Gibbs of the South African Medical Research Council for The Conversation.

Most of the mental health awareness campaigns have been around depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide, and alcohol abuse. Studies globally have broadly identified two main structural drivers of anxiety: poverty and violence. In South Africa half of adults are living below the poverty line, defined as earning an income of less than U.S.$82 per month. Similarly, experiences of violence in childhood and later life are common.

"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.

InFocus

Diepsloot in South Africa (file photo).

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