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How mental health in SA was affected by Covid-19

CAPE TOWN – A national survey by a leading pharmaceutical firm and mental wellness advocate has discovered a massive increase in psychological and emotional stress in South Africans since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The findings have been released in October which is recognised as Mental Health Awareness Month with 1 200 South Africans taking part in the survey by Pharma Dynamics looking for insights on the impact of the pandemic had on South African’s mental wellness with a key finding being stress levels surging by 56 percent.

The survey found numerous ways in which participants dealt with their emotional stress with 81 percent turning to unhealthy food, 20 percent to alcohol, 18 percent to cigarettes, 6 percent to smoking Cannabis and 22 percent to antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication to help them cope their psychological and emotional distress.

More than half (53 percent) of respondents either lost their job, had to take a pay-cut or was forced to close a business, but 65 percent admitted to neglecting their health.

49 percent of the respondents felt anxious while 48 percent felt frustrated, 31 percent felt depressed and, alarmingly, 6 percent have contemplated suicide.

“The disruptions in routine and economic activity that the pandemic has caused, has had a devastating impact on mental health. Record high unemployment levels, economic uncertainty – both locally and abroad, having to social distance and isolate ourselves, taking on additional childcare responsibilities (homeschooling) while juggling work and the constant fear of contracting the virus are all factors that increase anxiety and stress,” said Abdurahman Kenny, Mental Health Portfolio Manager at Pharma Dynamics, “We are likely to see much higher rates of mental illness among South Africans post the pandemic and need to increase psychosocial support efforts to avoid a COVID-19 related mental health crisis.”

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Kenny says, “The majority of respondents have also had personal experiences with COVID-19 that have exacerbated anxiety levels. The survey found that 6 percent caught the virus, among 27 percent of the respondents had a family member diagnosed with COVID-19 and 50% percent knew someone who passed away from the Coronavirus.”

“The fact that nearly half (49%) of respondents wanted to reach out to a therapist for help during the pandemic, but couldn’t due to limited financial resources or access, highlights decades of neglect and underinvestment in mental health services in our country. Due to the sheer size of the problem, most mental health needs remain unaddressed and have been hindered by a lack of funds in mental health promotion, prevention and care. Much more needs to be done to protect those facing mounting mental pressure. The psychological well-being of our communities and society at large requires immediate attention,” says Kenny.

If you feel weighed-down by the pandemic and don’t know who to turn to, contact Pharma Dynamics’ toll-free helpline on 0800 205 026, which is manned by trained counsellors who are on call from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. For additional support, visit

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