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Stigmatization comes under the microscope on Mental Health Awareness day

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Stigmatisation remains a leading reason behind people not seeking professional help for mental illnesses. This is according to a Cape Town based mental health counsellor, Claire Williams.

She says stigmatisation adds to the burden of mental health disorders, often leading to people opting not to seek professional help.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organisation reported that 970-million people worldwide suffered from a mental disorder. Just over 300-million were battling anxiety and 280-million, depression. Due to the pandemic these figures have increased by nearly 30-percent.

Nearly 58-million sufferers were children or teenagers.

In South Africa, quality mental health care remains out of reach for many. In the private sector, costs often play a deterring role, while at public facilities there are more patients than places. A registered counsellor in Cape Town, Claire Williams, says besides these challenges, stigma remains the biggest barrier…

“I think if anything, this is the biggest barrier to people accessing care because they will be stigmatised as having something wrong or will be seen as crazy. That’s difficult because already confused and nervous about what they are experiencing and to still come in and access care with the fear of that social component.”

Law makers have called on those suffering from mental health disorders to seek help. MP Zakhele Mbhele, says after trying to manage his depression and anxiety by himself and failing his quality of life improved when he received professional help…

“The benefits and clarity and weight off shoulders, and greater happiness and better head space made me so relieved that I thought it was important to work on design because no one should put themselves through that much struggle and strain, internally by themselves, before they finally reach out and seek help.”

Another MP, Nazley Shariff, say as a young person, she knows that stigmatisation is a big challenge…

“Growing up in society that never spoke about mental health, only when I got older I got to understand it, more so that I struggle with social anxiety. Not only do I struggle, also friends and fam. and often don’t want to talk about it because of stigma. But I find more young people coming out and speaking about struggles. It seems like with more time, more young people are coming out. That’s why I go to weekly therapy to learn how to cope better with my mental health.”

Williams says public facilities are drowning under the demand. They all agree that increased funding is crucial to address the ever increasing need.

Source: SABC news

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