Nearly one in five people who have tested positive for Covid-19 are diagnosed with a mental illness. Photo Pexels

GBV and mental health calls increase amid lockdown

“We are now averaging between 1 200 and 1 400 incoming calls every day. That excludes all the people we follow up with, or patients we help to get admitted to hospitals, or responses to emails or text messages.”  

DURBAN – According to the World Health Organization, nearly  800 000 people die by suicide every year. That’s an average of one person every 40 seconds. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29 year-olds globally. In South Africa, 9 percent of all teenage deaths are due to suicide and the numbers are increasing.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) says that since the beginning of the national lockdown on March 27, calls from people who are incredibly suicidal have increased.

Sadag operations director Cassey Chambers said: “We are now averaging between 1 200 and 1 400 incoming calls every day. That excludes all the people we follow up with, or patients we help to get admitted to hospitals, or responses to emails or text messages.  

“We’ve also seen an increase in calls to Childline as well as gender-based violence cases. So we’ve been monitoring our calls very closely to see which platforms and mechanisms people are accessing.”

Statistics South Africa estimates that South African women are five times more likely to be killed on account of their gender than other women worldwide, The command centre’s data shows that, in the first four days of South Africa’s three-week lockdown, the number of daily calls doubled. 

“The number of gender-based violence (GBV) distress calls shot up from 12000 to almost 80 000 since the first week of the shutdown. The number of interactions we’re receiving through the lines are astronomical during this time of restricted movement. The daily interaction rate has increased tremendously and the volume of calls is 10 times higher,” said Lifeline SA chief executive Molefi Takalo.

According to the Department of Social Development, data-free messages to the centre’s phone number increased more than ten-fold and SMSs streamed in at double the usual daily rate too. By April 22, the centre has received 12 702 calls since the start of lockdown.

“For those who are not coping, it’s really important that they must get some mental health treatment or help. When you need help, the first step is to reach out – either to a family member or loved one, or to a mental health professional,” concluded Chambers.

You can reach SADAG by calling its 24-hour helpline on 0800 456 789; for a suicidal emergency, contact 0800 567 567. Alternatively, call Childline on 08 000 55 555, or Lifeline on 0861 322 322. 

 

 

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