While the primary threat posed by COVID-19 is to people’s physical health, the pandemic is also taking its toll on economies, social and cultural activities, and people’s mental health. Spotlight spoke to mental health experts in the public, private and NGO sectors to hear how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the mental health of people in South Africa.
An emotional tsunami
Pillay says that the pandemic has caused what he calls an emotional tsunami. “People’s feelings are exacerbated to the extremes at the moment, especially because of the uncertainty of what’s going to happen,” he says.
“We don’t want to pathologise people’s feelings, because [they] are normal and acceptable, but it takes a toll on mental health even if it doesn’t lead to serious mental illness. It definitely leaves people in a perpetual state of stress,” he says.
What people worry about
A recent survey conducted by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) found that nearly half of the 1 214 respondents felt that financial stress and pressure were one of the main challenges during the lockdown.
Adding to this, over half of respondents cited anxiety and panic as a major challenge.
Masutane Modjadji, South African Federation for Mental Health’s (SAFMH), Information and Awareness Project Leader, says that people are worried about different things at the same time.