Let’s stand together in support of Mental Health and stop the stigmatisation
Did you know that one in every four people will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives? This number far exceeds the number of people who will be diagnosed with cancer in a lifetime. The World Bank and the World Health Organisation predict that by the year 2020, psychiatric illness will be the number one cause of disability in the world.
Barbara Bush, Drew Carey, John Cleese, Anthony Hopkins, Billy Joel, Elton John, Monica Seles and many more familiar names suffer from major depression and are labelled as mentally ill. The stigmatisation has got to stop. Stigma destroys life chances.
October is Mental Health Awareness month in South Africa and it’s World Mental Health Day on the 10 October. SASOP (South African Society of Psychiatrists) along with various patient advocacy groups including the SA Depression and Anxiety Support Group (DASG) have announced that the 2002 Mental Health Awareness campaign will focus of an anti-stigma initiative that prescribes emotional health for everyone.
"Stigma is the biggest obstacle to the treatment of people who suffer mental illness. The biggest cause of stigma is ignorance," says Professor Margaret Nair from the Department of Psychiatry at Natal University.
Mental disorders including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, dementia and Schizophrenia can affect anyone, from any walk of life. Mental illness does not discriminate against social class, intellect, race, religion or culture. However society discriminates against those suffering from mental illness resulting in fear, hostility and disapproval against such people instead of compassion, support and understanding.
Suicide is on the increase in South Africa and it is alarming to note that 150 000 South African’s attempt suicide every year. Of the South African’s that attempt suicide 1 in 10 woman succeed and 1 in 3 men succeed. In SA, hanging is the most frequently employed method of suicide, followed by shooting and gassing. Alarmingly, the suicide rate amongst children aged 10 –14 has more than doubled over the past 15 years.
The stigma that mentally ill patients face is reiterated by the medical aid companies who discriminate against the mentally ill, by not allocating adequate funding for appropriate treatment of the diagnosed illness. The benefit limits put on medication and hospitalisation, are blatantly discriminatory. In South Africa there are a mere seven medical aid companies out of 161 registered schemes in South Africa that do not discriminate against mentally ill patients.
Wear an orange ribbon on the 10 October and pledge your support for the emotional wellness of all South Africans on World Mental Health Day. Make a stand and help stop the stigmatism.