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By: Lunga Memela (HST Communications Engagement Lead)
Monday, 10 October 2022, is an important day. It's World Mental Health Day! The global community has long admitted that there is a pressing need to address the loneliness, isolation, depression, anxiety, and apprehensiveness that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. Stressors included the loss of loved ones, jobs, strain to the health system, and the inability to engage in sport, recreation, cultural and religious gatherings – things that keep us grounded as humans.
Ahead of World Mental Health Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a social media campaign aimed at reversing suicide and other mental health crises in Africa. This is in response to the continent's alarming suicide rates: "Around 11 people per 100 000 per year die by suicide in the African region, higher than the global average of nine per 100 000 people. This is due, in part, to insufficient action to address and prevent the risk factors, including mental health conditions which currently affect 116 million people, up from 53 million in 1990," reports WHO Africa.
Quoted in WHO Africa's article, the continent's Regional Director Dr Matshidiso Moeti says: "Suicide is a major public health problem and every death by suicide is a tragedy. Unfortunately, suicide prevention is rarely a priority in national health programmes … Significant investment must be made to tackle Africa's growing burden of chronic diseases and non-infectious conditions such as mental disorders that can contribute to suicide."
Mental health is enshrined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3: promoting good health and well-being for all people, young and old. South Africa's Health Department says the objective of Mental Health Awareness Month is not only to educate the public about mental health, but also to reduce the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illnesses are often subjected to.
The Health Systems Trust (HST) continues to promote good physical and mental health across its communications channels. HST stands boldly against anything that brings harm to women, children, men and the LGBTQI+ community. Please contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (www.sadag.org) or Lifeline SA's National Counselling Line (0861 322 322) for urgent assistance with mental health issues.
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