The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) said on Tuesday it had been receiving a higher number of calls from people under stress since the start of a five week national lockdown to April 30 enforced by the government to try and reduce new transmissions of Covid-19.
In a statement, SADAG said many callers were stressed about a combination of issues including the spread of the coronavirus, their finances, relationship problems, job security, grief, gender based violence and trauma.
“Covid-19 … has had a serious impact on people living with a mental health issue often making their symptoms more heightened,” the group’s operations director Cassey Chambers said.
“SADAG has (also) been receiving calls from people with no history of anxiety or depression who are feeling overwhelmed, anxious and stressed.”
An online survey on mental health which SADAG conducted through social media and other online platforms attracted over 1,200 respondent within 10 days.
Of these, 92 percent supported the lockdown. Regardless, 65 percent felt stressed or very stressed during the lockdown. The majority of respondents — 60 percent — were from South Africa’s Gauteng province, the national epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic, while 17 percent were from the Western Cape.
Some 59 percent respondents said they had been diagnosed with a mental health issue prior to the lockdown, with depression accounting for 46 percent, anxiety for 30 percent and bipolar disorder for 12 percent.
“These conditions could certainly be exacerbated by the lockdown, particularly if the individual lives alone or in a dysfunctional home situation,” said SADAG’s chairman, psychiatrist and psychologist Dr Frans Korb.
He said 16 percent of respondents lived alone and that loneliness and isolation was a recurring theme from the hundreds of callers contacting SADAG’s helplines every day.
“For many people, this is a worrying amount of alone time when they are forced to face themselves, their fears and anxieties alone,” Korb added.
SADAG acknowledged that while the survey sample size was statistically useful, it was not sufficiently large to allow for true national or provincial representation.
It had however given SADAG insight into the challenges many people were facing throughout the country, the group added.