Mental illness cases on the rise

Image: 123RF/lculig

"What will happen to me as I am alone in this flat during this lockdown far away from my family; what if I die and they cannot bury me."

This was one of the questions that kept lingering on Nqabakazi Madikiza's mind and probably to also many other South Africans during the lockdown period.

The country has been on a national lockdown since last month, to curb the spread of Covid-19. During this time, many people have experienced heightened feelings of anxiety and loneliness.

Things have been difficult for Madikiza, 33, who stays alone in a flat in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, while her family is 600km away.

"The first week was fine but reality started to sink in on the second week. What depressed me the most was being restricted in one area and couldn't even go home to Mthatha. I have seven months in the company and my fear was to be retrenched, which could have been the second one in a space of a year.

"I try to keep positive and I told myself not to entertain fake news. I have created a routine for myself, which I think works at the moment."

Cassey Chambers, operation director at the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), said they have been receiving more calls of stressed people who need help.

"We have received calls from people who are really struggling with being lonely and isolated, depressed and anxious. We receive many calls from people who still need help for their mental health outside Covid-19 and we have to provide emergency intervention," Chamber said.

She said their biggest worry was trying to access care and treatment for patients.

"We are providing a lot more practical tips and tools to deal with anxiety during the lockdown and building capacity among our counsellors, specifically those around Covid-19 and mental health," Chamber said.

Dr Siki Gwanya-Mdletye said it was normal for people to have natural responses to life stresses.

"This is a new virus and everyone is going through this huge knowledge gap. Some people are experiencing depression and despair with the sense that things are going wrong. It helps being mindful and also acknowledge that emotions fluctuate. People should understand how to cope," Gwanya-Mdletye said.

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