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Learners Encouraged To Consider Career In Mental Healthcare This Mental Health Awareness Month

  • 3 min read

With South Africa having recently been identified as the lowest-ranked country based on mental wellbeing, the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA) is encouraging people to consider a career in mental healthcare. The 2021 Mental State of the World report, recently showed that approximately 36% of South Africans are struggling with mental wellbeing. 

“Depression, anxiety and addiction are just a few of the myriad mental health concerns threatening our society, with three in ten South Africans experiencing at least one of these concerns in their lifetime*.  As we observes Mental Health Awareness Month this October, these stats show that the country’s mental healthcare sector needs to be bolstered by a growing workforce that is better equipped to provide the care that so many South Africans need,” comments HWSETA CEO Elaine Brass. 

A recent UNICEF report found that last year, 65% of young South Africans with mental health concerns did not seek help. “It is imperative that we work together to not only make sure that help is available, but to also overcome the social stigma associated with mental illness,” adds Brass. 

HWSETA has highlighted four careers in particular, where more professionals are needed:

  • Psychology: Psychologists play an important role in improving the mental health of their patients and can specialise in a number of areas – from working with children, organisations, or people with brain-based impairments. 
  • Specialist Psychiatry: Like psychologists, psychiatrists are specialists in mental health issues. The key difference, however, is that psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe medication. They diagnose, assess, treat and prevent human mental, emotional and behavioural issues. 
  • Addiction Counselling: While this technically falls under the field of psychology, HWSETA distinguishes this career as vital in South Africa where alcohol and drug abuse threaten many communities and families. It’s estimated that around 11% of South Africans suffer from different forms of addictions. Addiction counsellors help change the patterns of addicts and help them understand the underlying factors of why they are addicts. This work often entails working directly with the patient’s family as well as providing community education on addiction issues. 
  • Social Auxiliary Work: Social auxiliary workers assist social workers to provide support, protection and assistance to those in need and who are vulnerable or in crisis. Whether working with individuals or communities as a whole, social auxiliary workers support social workers in promoting healthy relationships and community life. The HWSETA has highlighted this career as vital, considering South Africa’s challenging socio-economic status which impacts the healthy functioning of many families and communities. 

People interested in pursuing any of these careers can find out more through the HWSETA career portal, which features an extensive A-Z guide on healthcare professions, as well as advice to help you through every phase of your career journey. From choosing subjects at school and applying to university, to gaining work experience and finding your dream job, the career portal is there to help, free of charge.

“Working in the mental healthcare sector isn’t for everyone. It can be difficult and emotional as you work with people to confront their feelings, traumas and behaviours. However, it can also be incredibly rewarding. This Mental Health Awareness Month, consider one of these careers and think about how you can help people and ensure no one suffers in silence,” concludes Brass.