Young people will not be able to cope with the pressures of adulthood if they do not have access to more mental health services in their youth. The lack of investment, limited child and adolescent mental health resources, and inadequate access to treatment, complicate this crisis as many children and young people go untreated.
This is the view of Dr Ingrid Daniels, the Chief Executive Officer at Cape Mental Health and Immediate Past President of the World Federation for Mental Health. She says that many young people in South Africa are exposed to high levels of crime and often live in fear of being caught in the crossfire of gangs that operate in townships and marginalised communities. Society and government, in particular, should therefore focus on addressing the risk factors that perpetuate the ever-increasing mental health concerns of children and youth in South Africa.
The COVID-19 pandemic further complicated the lives of youngsters by exposing them to factors such as poverty, unemployment, food scarcity and gender-based violence. Family functioning, how children are parented, and the influence of social media, all have a huge impact on a young person’s well-being. A child’s mental health state is often noticed only when there are changes in their behaviour at home or school, or if they are struggling academically. Sometimes their behaviour at home can result in self-harming and suicidal ideation.
On 10 October 2022, we will be celebrating World Mental Health Day with the theme ‘Make Mental Health & Well-Being for All a Global Priority’ ̶ a theme that was chosen by the World Federation of Mental Health, its members and the public.
The World Federation of Mental Health (WFMH) reports that the rates of people experiencing suicidal ideation are increasing globally. Moreover, people with lived experience of mental health disorders say that their mental health and well-being are not always at the forefront of their governments’ priorities or society at large. The WFMH also reports that there is increasing evidence that the prevention of mental ill-health is possible if there is better planning and collaboration between governments, civil society, and NPOs. No community or individual should be left behind.
But this ideal is easier said than done since many disparities still prevail. The soft target of our global battering has been the well-being of our family structure and the mental health of our children, adolescents and young adults. Young people have carried the brunt of global stresses and are struggling to cope with the trauma and uncertainties that have shaken the past few years. Failing to address adolescent mental health conditions can extend to adulthood, limiting the chances of young people to reach their potential and lead fulfilling lives as adults.
This October, during Mental Health Awareness Month, Cape Mental Health will prioritise young people and their mental health – so that they can get the help they need when they need it and in this way reduce the high rate of substance abuse, self-harm and suicide that is so prevalent in our country.
This year, the October Mental Health Awareness drive will focus on:
- Bringing awareness about the global crisis of our youth and their mental health, while addressing the specific challenges and needs of the South African youth.
- Showing the disparities in South Africa between youth who have access to private mental health care, those who have access only to state mental health services, and those young people who do not receive any help at all.
- Identifying and addressing the mental health needs and prospects of young, poor South Africans.
- Advocating for programmes that will help children become more resilient.
- Advocating for better collaboration between government departments, civil society, NPOs and the private sector.
Cape Mental Health will also launch the rebranding and expansion of its school and youth mental health programme in poorly resourced communities. YouthMatters, formerly known as MindMatters, is Cape Mental Health’s school and youth mental health programme that offers learners the opportunity to develop mental health resilience and acquire skills to cope with their dire socio-economic and mental health challenges. This year, the programme will expand from schools in Ocean View and Zeekoevlei to selected schools in Khayelitsha, Philippi and Gugulethu. The comprehensive school-based mental health promotion and awareness programme will provide psychosocial services to learners such as:
- Mental health awareness programmes
- Classroom-based workshops
- Psycho-education to educators to promote early intervention
- Counselling to learners
- Statutory services
The rebranding and expansion of YouthMatters will be launched at an event on
Thursday 3 November, between 13:30 and 16:00. The media will be informed of the details.
Cape Mental Health is an award-winning organisation, recognised at national and international levels for our innovative mental health services to persons with emotional adjustment problems, and those with mental disability (intellectual and or psychosocial). Our mission is to provide or facilitate comprehensive, proactive, and enabling mental health care services in the Western Cape. We are committed to challenging socially restrictive and discriminatory practices affecting the mental health of all people. Our work is underpinned by a commitment to quality, excellence, and professionalism. www.capementalhealth.co.za