South African youth reports high levels of mental health challenges arising from universal experiences such as climate crisis, economic uncertainty, geopolitical instability and social media threats and pressures.
There are also unique challenges affecting young people that are particularly rooted in South Africa’s socio-economic landscape.
According to a survey conducted by SACAP (South African College of Applied Psychology), over 60% of the youth are concerned about depression (61%) and anxiety (65%).
SACAP’s online survey canvassed 850 internet-connected respondents aged between 17 and 20 years, who are recent school leavers or currently in grades 11 and 12.
Head of SACAP’s Johannesburg campus, Jogini Packery, said research shows that the top five mental health issues facing the youth globally are anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm and suicidal behaviours.
“Post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and risky behaviours, depression and anxiety, suicide and self-harm, and sexual and reproductive health issues are on the rise,” said Packery.
“I believe that systemic decay is the leading cause of our youth facing the psychological stressors that they do, and the lack of effective coping strategies creates barriers to their wellness.
“Despite the increasing need for youth mental health focus, early intervention is simply not a priority of community funding and campaigns.”
The Frame Your Future survey shows that 61% of South African youth would “definitely” go for six monthly mental health check-ups if these services were available free of charge.
While young South Africans are open to accessing mental health support, the country faces a crisis of service delivery.
The challenges include:
- Lack of government funding and resources for increased mental health services
- Lack of integration of mental health into primary healthcare to promote early detection, prompt intervention, and increased access to mental health assistance
- Widespread scarcity of mental health practitioners
- Slow uptake of telehealth solutions providing mental health services
- Lack of early intervention and prevention programmes to foster mental health awareness, educate children about mental health in the classroom, combat stigma, and provide early intervention services for vulnerable groups
- Lack of community-based support services to give people with mental health disorders ongoing support and treatment choices
- Addressing equity so that South Africans regardless of financial status, colour, ethnicity, or geographic location have access to and can afford mental health treatments
- Awareness-building to keep lessening the stigma associated with seeking mental health care, so that people can do so without being judged or subjected to prejudice