In 2020, mental health accounted for 19% of Sanlam’s disability claims – up 11% from 2019. While the numbers are too low to read much into this, the increase is consistent with findings that Covid-19 has caused a global mental health crisis. People are stressed, anxious and grieving. Lockdowns and loss have magnified depression. In a deeply unequal society like South Africa, the virus laid bare an existing mental healthcare service gap and the shocking public health crisis in the country. While psychiatric services took an unavoidable step back during the successive lockdowns, they now have a crucial role to play.
A 2020 study by the Human Sciences Research Council found 33% of South Africans were depressed, with 45% feeling fearful and 29% facing loneliness in the first lockdown. People could access counselling, but many defaulted on appointments due to the risks perceived with in-person consultations. We are likely to see more consequences from these missed sessions.
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