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Fighting Mental Health Stigmatisation In Mental Health Awareness Month

  • 3 min read

Stigmatisation of mental health issues remains a major stumbling block and proactive awareness and education campaigns are needed. That’s the call that’s been made by healthcare professionals during the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA) Mental Wellbeing Livestream.

October’s Mental Health Awareness Month has put the spotlight firmly on what is been described as “mental health emergency” by professionals across the globe.

In South Africa, the statistics are shocking, according to SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group), its suicide helpline has, in the last nine months, received 2 2000 calls per day from people with suicidal thoughts.

According to Anele Siswana, a clinical psychologist and guest on the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA) Mental Wellbeing Livestream (Mental Wellbeing Livestream 07 October 2021 – YouTube),South Africans don’t always know how to speak about mental health.  “We don’t have the language to speak about mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. 

“Moreover, in some communities, behavioural changes due to mental health challenges are seen as demonic possession.  The very social construct of our society does not lend itself to an understanding of mental health; how to talk about it and where to find professional help,” he said.

Dr Bello Alvarez, host of HWSETA’s Mental Wellbeing Livestream believes that unfortunately, we’re dealing with both internalised and externalised stigmatisation.

Siswana echoed Dr Alvarez’s sentiment, reemphasising the importance of finding a language that people understand.  “We need to embark on proactive psycho education awareness drive where we talk about common disorders and how it can be treated.”

Fortunately, there is also good news, increased worldwide awareness of mental health, due to the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, has mitigated some of the stigmatisation.  “More and more we are seeing highly functional individuals coming forward with their mental health struggles, speaking openly about the daily challenges they face,” said Dr Alvarez.

“We need to get to a point when talking about mental health becomes almost boring. It should be normalised to a point that it forms part of everyday discussion,” she added.

Here, Siswana accentuated the importance of family support.  “It is vital that families, armed with mental health knowledge, intervene when loved one starts showing signs of mental health issues.  Low energy, weight loss or gain and self-isolation are all red flags that must be addressed.”

The next Mental Wellbeing Livestream will be hosted on Thursday, 14 October 2021 at 18:00 and will look at: The challenges of distance learning and its toll on mental wellbeing of students.  Follow the livestreams across HWSETA’s social media platforms: