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Living with a mental illness during Covid-19 pandemic

“Taking care of a child with a mental illness is a huge challenge, especially when I am trying to cope with my depression during this pandemic.”

DURBAN – The Coronavirus pandemic has led to a significant increase in the number of mental issues but for those suffering from mental illnesses, this has been a stressful and challenging time for them.

It is estimated that more than 17 million people in South Africa are dealing with depression, substance abuse, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia; illnesses that round out the top five mental health diagnoses, according to the Mental Health Federation of South Africa.

When 59-year-old Brian Arendse and his family tested positive for Covid-19, it brought feelings of shock, anxiety and fear. These emotions were heightened and became a challenge as both Arendse and his 38-year-old son suffered from mental illness.

“Taking care of a child with a mental illness is a huge challenge, especially when I am trying to cope with my depression during this pandemic. My son lives in his own world and getting him to wear a mask is not easy. He would often put his mask in his pocket. Even though we preach hand hygiene and ensure that it is performed in our home, it is challenging to ensure he washes his hands often,” explained Arendse.

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“My son belongs to the Department’s mental health programme in Mitchells Plain and one of the health officials who manages the programme contacted me to find out how we were coping at home,”

“I told her our dilemma and the reason why we couldn’t isolate at home with our son. She arranged for both my son and I to safely isolate at one of their isolation facilities in the Metro,” said a relieved Arendse.

While the economic, social and psychological toll of the Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the need for mental health support in all communities, Arendse says those who suffer from mental illnesses have to educate themselves about the virus and find ways or techniques to cope during this challenging time

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy group, is conducting an online survey to collect data about virtual counselling as a result of the need for physical distancing.

Participating in the survey, should take less than 10 minutes to complete.


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