I just watched this video on mental health challenges in public healthcare and believe communities need to wake up to the perils ahead.
Public health care under strain
It is estimated that one in six people globally will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime. In South Africa, it is estimated that close to one in three people live with a mental illness and the majority are unable to access suitable care. Given the high prevalence of mental illness in the country, it is unsurprising that mental health is one of the leading causes of disability.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on people’s mental health. The lockdown, loss of jobs, and social isolation have increased anxiety and depression. In addition, there has been a significant increase in the number of people experiencing domestic violence.
The mental health system in South Africa was already under immense strain before the pandemic hit. The added pressure of the pandemic has led to concerns about the ability of the public healthcare system to deal with the increased demand for mental health services.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on mental health
There is a growing concern that the public healthcare system will not be able to deal with the mental health demands related to COVID-19. The virus has already significantly impacted people’s mental health, and with the lockdown measures in place, many people are struggling to cope.
The increased demand for mental health services will likely strain an already stretched healthcare system. This could lead to longer waiting times for mental health care and a general deterioration of mental health services.
There are calls for the government to invest more in mental health services to improve the ability of the healthcare system to deal with the increased demand. However, it remains to be seen whether this will happen.
The risks of not addressing the mental health needs of the population
There is growing evidence that the population’s mental health needs are not adequately addressed. This is leading to increased risks for individuals, families and communities.
The knock-on effect of the pandemic and mental health on entrepreneurs and small business owners, already under fiscal strain, could have a severe impact on the financial stability of communities.
There are several reasons why the population’s mental health needs are not adequately addressed. One reason is that mental health is still taboo in many cultures. This means people are reluctant to talk about their mental health problems and seek help.
Another reason is that mental health services are often underfunded and understaffed. This means there are not enough resources, and people with mental health problems often don’t get the help they need.
The population’s mental health needs must be taken seriously and addressed properly. This will require a concerted effort from individuals, families, communities and governments.
The potential solutions
Mental health is a significant challenge in the public healthcare system. The potential solutions to address this challenge include:
– Providing more resources for mental health services
– Improving access to mental health care
– Increasing awareness of mental health issues
– improving the quality of mental health services
The South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP) is urging the government health department to increase its investment in community-level mental healthcare. See link here.
These solutions require a concerted effort from all healthcare system levels, from policy-makers to front-line workers. However, with the right support, the public healthcare system can significantly progress in addressing the mental health challenge.
The Upside response
Upside Community Services’ response to this pandemic rests on two fundamental pillars
- Early intervention
- Public-Private partnerships
Research has shown that early intervention has a greater level of success but it also reduces the strain on public healthcare by reducing the numbers of severe mental health cases.
Public-private partnerships allows for a more rapid deployment of mental healthcare services to the communities that need it.