Mental Health in 2020 – What Now?

It is no brainer that the pandemic that crippled the world did more than just close borders and economic activities – it affected many in terms of their mental health. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group reported that they received a high number of calls from individuals who had reportedly no history of anxiety and depression. SADAG also reported a staggering 1 400 phone calls a day during the level 5-3 lockdown. These individuals were struggling during the lockdown, stating that the isolation, financial strain, and poor relations were amongst the reasons for their despair. According to a study conducted by National Income Dynamics Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM), approximately three million people lost their jobs over the lockdown period – an 18% decline in employment from 17 million people employed in February.

Many industries have since opened. While others continue working from home, others have returned to their offices, abiding by the President’s pleas of social distancing, and wearing a mask in public. The local transmission numbers continue to drop, placing South Africa further down the Corona countries’ list. The nation curfew has been pushed up to midnight, meaning the hospitality industry gets to operate as best as they can again. Many employees took salary cuts and retrenchment packages, while essential workers were expected to work longer hours. Many had to take on additional jobs to make ends meet while others took their vehicles back to the dealership to reduce their debts. Overall, many South African’s felt the impact of the pandemic. Whether they were diagnosed with a mental illness or stress, the mental wellbeing of many was affected.

Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), expressed his concern over the impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health. While the numbers may have gone down post level 5 lockdown, the effects on many’s mental health remain. It was reported that the factors that contributed to the mental detriment of many were: social isolation, the fear of getting sick, loss of friends and family members, and the distress caused by loss of income. Many operations, such as learning, moved online. E-learning became the new normal for many to adapt to. This left many anxious about affordability and adaptability. Many organisations had to return to the drawing board and see how they could make online contact more inclusive and cost-effective. 7 Months down the line, and many are still completing their courses online. Studies have shown that more employees signed up for online short courses. This was done to increase their visibility in the job market and to add to the value they offer in their places of employment. Tusanang’s accredited e-Learning platform provided many solutions for organisations and learners who had to take their learning online. By providing data solutions and easy to navigate learner-management-system, Tusanang was able to help alleviate any additional anxiety its client had regarding its learning solutions.

The high number of people who sought help should prove both good and bad news. The good part is that more people can recognise the symptoms of mental illness and when to seek help. The whole idea behind mental health awareness campaigns is to distribute information that one can use to decipher if they need help or not. The bad side is that this has shown that the public health system and toll-free numbers have reached their capacity in providing quality assistance for all who seek help, leaving many without the treatment desired. The crippling costs of medical aid and private psychiatric treatment leave many South African’s vulnerable. These unbearable costs have left many to substance abuse and self-sabotaging activities to create a form of escapism. 

Mental health from here? 

The effects of the pandemic on general life triggers such as stress and trauma, remain to be seen for the remainder of the year. In hopes that the country won’t revert back to higher lockdown levels, the free flow of movement and economic activity provides hope for many that things may slowly return to normal. The internet and social media played a crucial role and controlling the narrative during this year. The spread of false news and dooms-day news further promoted fear and anxiety amongst many, especially the younger generation who rely on technology for almost everything and the elderly who rely on it to keep in touch with family and friends. E-Learning remains a pivotal part of learning in South Africa. It has proven to be cost-effective and agile for companies and learners alike, making achieving goals which contribute to increased self-esteem. 

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