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head in handMoneybags journalist, Ashleigh Brown, looks at the cost of psychological help, where you can get free advice, and how important mental health really is.

Mental health is as important as your physical health: if you can’t think straight, how can you expect your body to work properly?

Mental problems are often met with prejudice and even fear, and many sufferers hide away and brush off any health issues they might have. Seeking help for a mental disorder still has some stigmas attached, and then of course there is the cost of seeking help from a psychologist or psychiatrist which isn’t cheap (see below for the average cost).

Many people seem to brush off the seriousness of mental health, and at times tell sufferers to “just get over it” or “maybe try not to be sad”.

Though, for many, mental health problems can be debilitating.  The negative comments that society has about mental health, only compounds the problem.

“Emotions are our driving force behind everything we do, care about and add value to our lives,” says Candice Cohen, the Corporate Manager from LifeLine in Johannesburg.

Cohen says that looking after your mental health is just as valuable as looking after your physical health.

“People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their emotions and behaviours. They can handle life’s challenges, build strong relationships and lead productive lives,” she says.

Meryl Da Costa, from the South Africa Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) says that it is very important that we take care of ourselves mentally or be aware of our mental health as it affects every part of our life; our relationships, professional and personal life.

The Stats

According to SADAG , there are 450 million people in the world who suffer from a mental illness.

In South African alone, mental health is the third biggest contributor to the burden of disease. Yet, 50% of South Africans believe that mental health is not a priority.

Adding to these concerning statistics, depression is the leading cause of disability in the world with nearly one million people committing suicide every year.

Also, 75% of people in low to middle income countries will not get the treatment they need.

mental illness 1 
Source: SADAG, correct as of 4 June 2015.

The cost of having a mental health problem

One in five South Africans suffer from common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, explains Cohen.

She says that there are many factors that put the South African population at high risk for mental disorders: both the Apartheid regime and post- Apartheid era is rife with violence, victims and discrimination.

Though many South Africans cannot afford the high costs of medical aid, or even getting basic treatment. According to SADAG 81.2% of South Africans cannot afford health care.

“Psychologists fees do vary from province and different region, but they generally range from R600-R1200 per session,” says Da Costa.

Some psychologist’s sessions, which can last between 60 to 70 minutes, can cost you R800 to R900 per session. These professionals often recommend that you attend between six to eight sessions.

For eight 60 minute sessions, that is going to cost you R4 800.

Medical aids don’t always pay for the full amount. A website called Childpsych, which lists details of educational psychologists in South Africa, points out: “Medical aids all pay different rates per hour, but the average medical aid rate for an educational psychologist is about R700 per hour. Services rendered by educational psychologist are covered by most medical aids.”

Psychologist’s’ fees and fee structure will vary and some even ask for payment upfront and tell you to claim from your medical scheme yourself, particularly if you are a new customer.

“Medical aids do cover therapy sessions depending on what plan or option you are on, it is also important that patients read up more about Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs) which explains further what disorders can qualify for treatment, how many sessions, etc. but it is always advisable to check with your psychologist if they are recognised by your medical aid,” says Da Costa.

To ensure you are not out of pocket and to find out if you can save money by going to your medical scheme’s preferred network provider first contact your scheme to find out what is covered and what isn’t.

The stigmas

“In many cases the stigma’s attached to mental illness can be worse than the illness itself. False beliefs cause significant problems and impact a person’s recovery,” says Cohen.

She explains that in most societies those with a mental illness are viewed as dangerous, different, crazy or some say that their illness is self-inflicted.
Da Costa agrees, saying that unfortunately, there is stigma attached to mental health.

“And we know this because so many people do not want to seek help, or talk about it due to fears of being discriminated against or judged. They feel ashamed,” she says.

BuzzfeedTV recently launched a video showing how absurd it would be if we treated physical problems, like we do mental health ones.

“Listen, I know you are sick and all, but are you even trying to get better?” asks the lady in the first sketch to her friend who has the flu, who replies by sneezing. Another man who is busy giving himself insulin shots is asked by a co-worker: “Do you really need to use medication every day to feel normal?”

It seems silly to tell someone with a broken arm to just “suck it up”. So why do we do that when someone has a mental health problem?

“SADAG works very hard to break the stigma by creating as much awareness about mental health as we can, we would like everyone to feel comfortable enough to talk about it in their homes, be honest with your partner and family members,” says Da Costa.

For more information on depression and anxiety, as well as some of the common symptoms, click here.

Where to find free help

There are different associations around South Africa, such as SADAG, the South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH), and Cape Mental Health to name but a few, which offer free advice and support groups. There is also LifeLine which offers free counselling services in communities.

Check out the associations’ respective social media sites as some, like SADAG, have free online advice sessions where you can speak to registered psychologists and psychiatrists.

“Types of counselling include: individual; couples; rape; trauma; HIV and burnout,” says Cohen.

Contact info:

LifeLine
•    Crisis line: 0861 322 322 is a 24 hour help line, or
•    Visit their website, or
•    Tel: 011 728 1331.

SADAG:
•    To find a Support Group in your area,phone SADAG on (011) 234 4837,
•    Suicide Crisis Line:0800 567 567, or SMS 31393
•    Alternatively, visit their website for more information.

SAFMH:
•    Tel: 0861 322 322
•    Or on their website.

Cape Mental Health:
•    Tel: +27 21 447 9040
•    Fax: +27 21 448 8475
•    Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.