Suicide rates are on the rise yet again. Police have confirmed that a student has died after jumping from a building in Braamfontein in an alleged suicide. It’s understood the 19-year-old woman jumped from the sixth floor of a student residence on Saturday 14 October 2017.
October has been declared mental health awareness month in South Africa & around the world. The sole purpose of this is to raise awareness about often overlooked issue of mental health. Furthermore, this is targeted at educating the public and demystifying common misconceptions about mental health, therefore removing the stigma associated with mental illnesses.
Metal health disorders encompass all health conditions and illnesses involving changes in thinking, resulting in unusual emotional behaviour. This ranges from health problems such as depression and anxiety, to substance abuse and stress. Though the cause of mental health disorders cannot be quantified, mental health problems result from an interplay of psychological, emotional, social, and biological factors.
The severity of mental health disorders range from low order disorders such as stress which is regarded as transient, medium range disorders such as depression which are regarded as occurring periodically, lastly long lasting disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
When mental health disorders do not receive the relevant professional help they require to alleviate and also treat their severity, they end up causing detrimental effects to the people around the victim of a mental health disorder, and the person may end up being a danger to himself or herself.
Suicide remains one of the leading effects that emanate from mental health disorders. According to South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) 90% of adolescents who commit suicide have an underlying mental illness. The Federation for Mental Health also confirmed that South Africa has the 8th highest suicide rate in the World, with approximately 8000 suicides per year. Furthermore, 1 in 4 teens have attempted suicide, with 1 in 3 suicide admissions in hospital attributed to the youth.
The perspectives which shape how mental health disorders vary in terms of context. There are historical, cultural, and often educational as well as scientific capacity in understanding mental disorders. From a cultural perspective, mental health disorders have not always been viewed as disorders per se. They are often categorised and classified as “western” health diseases, due to the pattern of perception within the African context.
One may note common misconceptions within Black communities regarding mental disorders, which have contributed to the oblivion and often lack of compassion for those going through periods of depression and anxiety. It is therefore imperative, to accurately address these misconceptions in order to build communities with emotional stature which will enable people to feel empowered enough to get the help that they require.
For African men, hyper masculinity defines how men ought to navigate and process their emotions. African proverbs are centred on men not crying, such as that reflected in a common Sepedi proverb " Monna ke nku o llela teng " which translated means men don’t cry. Yet, such perceptions have built toxic masculine perceptions which are not in line with the reality of mental health disorders. Men are taught not to display and process their emotions publicly or employ any form of counsel, albeit the suicide rate amongst black men bring 3.5 times higher than women.
Getting professional help has also been stigmatized within the context of culture, and particularly that of faith. Getting help from a professional is attributed to acknowledging that you are indeed “crazy” and not having enough faith, albeit statistics showing that 75% of suicide victims have shown signs that could have led to the prevention of the event, had professional help been employed.
Mental health illness is an issue synonymous with an imbalance. Furthermore, to get in balance, one requires professional help. South Africa has a range of healthcare facilities that cater to this.
Here is a list of resources to get in touch with to get adequate assistance.