The Life Esidimeni tragedy spotlighted the extent of mental dysfunction in SA and put on the national agenda the imperative of improving mental health services. But little help is available for the country’s biggest mental health problem: the anxiety caused by unemployment. Prof Melvyn Freeman, chief director for noncommunicable diseases at the Department of Health, says increasing services for severe mental disorders will not help most people suffering from common mental health disorders such as depression, adjustment disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety disorders, mood disorders and alcohol and drug abuse. Only 5% of the health budget is allocated to mental health, yet an estimated 16.5% of adult South Africans are living with such challenges. A global study presented at a mental health summit in Johannesburg in 2017 showed that 30% of people report life-long psychiatric disorders, while one in three will be affected by a mental illness in their lifetimes. "Most of ...

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