In South Africa, one – third of the population suffers from mental illness. Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behaviour (or a combination of these). Both emotional well-being and psychological pitfalls affect an individual’s mental health hence the person often suffer from adversative stigmatization and discrimination. World Psychiatry denotes the fact that stigmatization of people with mental illness can contribute to adverse consequences, such as:
- poor access to mental and physical health care
- reduced life expectancy
- exclusion from higher education and employment
- increased risk of contact with the criminal justice system
- poverty and homelessness.
However, crime and motor vehicle accidents are prevalent in society and institutions of higher learning, thus could lead up to 6 million South Africans that suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. "Students often don't know where to turn when developing psychiatric symptoms", said Dr GP Grobler, head of the clinical unit Psychiatry at Steve Biko Academic Hospital. "Stigma plays a significant role in keeping mental illness and mental health concerns the hidden epidemic that it is. Students may feel isolated and overwhelmed."
With regard to the given contexts, one can accentuate that there is an immense need to address the state of students and staff’s mental wellbeing within their respective spheres. Despite the vast need of intervention, South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) made a succinct call that, South Africa’s mental healthcare resources are wholly unequipped to handle the burden placed on them. According to SADAG, less than 16% of sufferers receive treatment for mental illnesses. And, although over 85% of these patients are dependent on public health-sector services, there are only 18 beds for every 100 000 people available in such hospitals (and only 1% of these are reserved for children and adolescents!).
According to Dr Grobler, "The treatment gap in mental health is real but several initiatives such as education of general practitioners and nursing practitioners in mental health treatment, task shifting and screening procedures are being implemented to make mental health services more available and accessible.”