SA observes Mental Health Awareness Month

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pretoria - National and provincial departments of Health are to observe Mental Health Awareness Month by conducting various activities to educate the public about mental health, including depression.

National Department of Health spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said that the planned activities included a technical consultative workshop with stakeholders in the mental health sector.

The workshop, to be led by the Deputy Minister of Health Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, aims to develop a National Action Plan and set targets based on the declaration that was adopted by participants in the National Mental Health Summit held in April 2012.

Workshops to obtain better compliance with the human rights provisions of the Mental Health Care Act of 2002 will also be conducted in all nine provinces targeting clinicians and health managers.

"A number of other activities are planned by provinces including talks and screening for depression in health facilities, schools, churches, workplaces and other public spaces, academic symposiums and updates, and door-to-door campaigns to educate communities about depression and encourage them to seek help if they think they are suffering from depression," Hadebe said.

Today is World Mental Health Day and it is being held under the theme "Depression: A Global Priority".

Depression is a common health problem which affects people of all ages, races, religions and socioeconomic statuses in South Africa and has been ranked as second only to HIV and AIDS among the causes of years lived with disability in this country.

The prevalence of depression tends to be higher among those with low levels of education and is higher among females than males (Tomlinson 2009).

Depression is particularly high around child birth where prevalence of about 16.4 % - 34.7% has been found among postnatal women (Ramchandani et al 2008; Cooper et al, 1999). The prevalence of postnatal depression has been found to be even higher in HIV positive postnatal women in South Africa (Hartley et al, 2010; Peltzer and Shikwane 2011).

The World Health Organisation in 2005 reported that symptoms and outcomes of postnatal depression may arguably be one of the major contributors towards poor maternal and child health outcomes.

High levels of depression and alcohol dependence/abuse have been found among individuals with chronic diseases like heart problems, hypertension, diabetes and HIV infections and has been linked to poor treatment outcomes and prognosis (Freeman 2007; Prince et al 2007). -