Mental health & Psychology Conference

We are back again this year with the much anticipated Mental Health & Psychology Conference amidst the country’s escalating mental health crisis with studies revealing the poor standing of mental health in South Africa.

There is no doubt that mental health has been grossly neglected and under-prioritised in the country. As a result, the grip of this silent stalker gained ground. As many as one in six South Africans are said to suffer from anxiety, depression or substance-use problems (and this does not include more serious conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia), according to statistics released by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). Furthermore, research reveals that over 40% of people living with HIV in South Africa have a diagnosable mental disorder. A study done by ‘UCTs Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health indicates that, in low-income and informal settlements surrounding Cape Town, one in three women suffers from postnatal depression, while research from rural KwaZulu-Natal shows that 41% of pregnant women are depressed – more than three times higher than the prevalence in developed countries.

According to SADAG, 90% of adolescents who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness. Suicide and mental health are difficult and uncomfortable topics to discuss and deal with because people are failing to talk and open up about these issues. Financial woes, relationship problems, depression and traumatic events are pushing more South Africans to contemplate suicide hence the need for interventions and engagements from all stakeholders. This issue of suicidal, has become rampant within individuals, families, communities and academic institutions .One in four university students are likely to be diagnosed with depression, and 20% of students admit to having had suicidal thoughts at some point in their tertiary studies. This therefore calls for higher education institutions to place greater emphasis on mental health and wellness.

In addition to a lack of resources, stigmas surrounding mental health pose a major stumbling block when it comes to treating the disease in South Africa, with the primary burden of mental healthcare falling on community-based providers. Institutions such as clinics, support groups, even lay counsellors and community leaders are having to step in where institutionalised help is not available. Only 27% of South Africans reporting severe mental illness ever receive treatment. This means that nearly three-quarters of these sufferers are not accessing any form of mental health care at all. The lack of support for families of the mentally ill is also aggravated by the allocation of available funds, which are spent on mental health facilities that only serve a small proportion of those who need care, leaving community-based treatment programs severely underresourced. Experts unanimously agree that the nature of the mental health situation in the South African context requires a uniquely South African solution. There is most definitely scope for an approach to dealing with the country’s mental health issues that incorporates both western medicine and traditional healing. Thus, rigorous effort is required to integrate those with disabilities – such as mental health – back into their communities, and the need to provide appropriate community-based services using hospitalisation only as a last resort. There is therefore need for public education on issues of mental health across the country.

Come and join stakeholders within the mental health & psychology industry as they break the stigma, silence and the shame around mental ill-health. The conference will also demonstrate an understanding of the educational needs prerequisite to dealing with mental health challenges. This will be done through debates that will highlight the need for investment within mental health, employee wellness, Suicidal crisis and management, psychosocial wellness in employment, depression within families, mental health preparation within education and mental health awareness amongst other topics. This is a must attend to those who want to collaborate in creating awareness and in how to deal with this silent stalker.