The  investigation published by the Sunday Times says that of the 33% of South Africans who are mentally ill, 75% of them will not get any kind of help.

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.

Why, then, do they not get help? The reasons are depressing.

Among some of the reasons is that juvenile psychiatric patients housed in state-owned facilities run the risk of being raped or being held incarceration-style.

In South Africa’s biggest hopsital, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, women in psychiatric wards are squeezed in a dormitory environment – up to 55 women at a time.

Dr Yusuf Moosa, head of clinical psychiatry at the University of the Witwatersrand, confirmed that such conditions are not conducive to proper recovery.

“You only have two nurses on duty and there’s little or no stimulation for these women. Now, if you’re struggling with depression, these conditions are not ideal”

Despite the high figures, the government health departments breaks off only 4% of its budget to address the crisis.

The limitation of available beds in state institutions means that only those at the “severe’ end of the mental health spectrum get admitted.

The situation is maddeningly dire.

Currently, 85% of psychologists in the country are in private practice, which means they service only 14% of the country’s population.

Dr Melvyn Freeman, head of non-communicable diseases at the Department of Health attributes this to money. He says a professor of psychiatry could earn R1.5-million ($150,000) a year working for the government – but such a professional’s annual salary in the private health sector could be as much as R5-million ($500,000)

He added that the most effective way to deal with the problem would be implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI), which will probably only come into effect after 2025.

Source: Times Live