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Mental Health – Worldwide Change is needed

June 28, 2022

What South Africans have to say

I have been reading two interesting reports on the state of mental health around the world. The first was published by the World Health Organisation (WHO), ‘World Mental Health Report’ and the second, ‘The Mental State of the World’ by Sapien Labs.

There certainly have been more conversations around the topic in my circles. More calls, coffees with friends and family, more drives, and more concrete discussions with clients. I hope that you will agree with me; that mental health is so much more than a classified mental health diagnosis.

In the 2021 Sapien report, of the 223 087 internet-enabled respondents, 11 887 were South Africans who participated in a Mental Health Quotient (MHQ) assessment which captures a comprehensive spectrum of emotional, social, and cognitive attributes that encompass both problems (or symptoms) across ten different mental health disorders, as well as positive mental health attributes.

South Africa was one of 34 countries that participated, and we ranked the lowest, along with the United Kingdom, in terms of the weighted average score.

What is mental health?

The World Health Organisation described mental health as:
A state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realise their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community. It is an integral component of health and well-being that underpins our individual and collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships and shape the world we live in. Mental health is a basic human right, and it is crucial to personal, community and socio-economic development.

There are nearly one billion people worldwide who already live with a mental health disorder. Rates of common conditions such as depression and anxiety went up by more than 25% in the first year of the pandemic.

“Everyone’s life touches someone with a mental health condition. Good mental health translates to good physical health, and this new report makes a compelling case for change. The inextricable links between mental health and public health, human rights and socio-economic development mean that transforming policy and practice in mental health can deliver real, substantive benefits for individuals, communities, and countries everywhere. Investment into mental health is an investment into a better life and future for all.” – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General

The world is working toward breaking down stigmas and misconceptions associated with matters of mental health conditions. The ‘World Mental Health Report’ is aimed at decision-makers in the health sector tasked with transformation, developing mental health policies and delivering mental health systems and services. It also includes narratives from individuals across the world (three from South Africa) who shared their own lived experiences with mental health.
Below, I put together some practical information on accessing benefits that may be available to you here in South Africa:

Accessing Mental Health Benefits through your medical scheme membership

Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs) are a set of defined benefits to ensure that all medical scheme members have access to certain minimum health services, regardless of the benefit option they have selected. The aim is to provide people with continuous care to improve their health and well-being and to make healthcare more affordable.

PMBs are a feature of the Medical Schemes Act, in terms of which medical schemes must cover the costs related to the diagnosis, treatment and care of:

Based on the above, your plan option includes cover for Chronic Conditions and Prescribed Minimum Benefits. Typically, your scheme will list these as separate benefits; however, there are instances where these conditions may be covered by one or both of these benefits.

The above set of conditions includes certain mental health conditions in the Chronic Disease List as well as emergency mental health events under PMBs. I have provided links to the conditions and codes, quite complex for medical scheme members; however, your treating specialist should be comfortable with these. It is important that you explore all possibilities for funding your treatment so that you are maximising your access to mental health benefits available to you.

Your scheme will have an application process, as well as an appeals process that you can gain access to through your healthcare financial advisor or scheme directly.

Employee Assistance Programmes

Your employer may offer an Employee Assistance Programme benefit, which will give you access to telephonic counselling for a range of events. If you do have access to this benefit, I encourage you to make use of and engage with the programme.

Toll-Free Helplines

If you are not sure where to start, try contacting the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), SADAG is a Non-Profit Organisation that has on its board a team of patients, psychiatrists, psychologists, and general practitioners. SADAG was established twenty years ago to serve as a support network for the thousands of South Africans who live with mental health problems. Their toll-free number is 0800 567 567. To find out more, visit their website at

Healthy Mind

There are many books and mobile APPs centred around mindfulness that share numerous techniques you can employ to reach/maintain a healthier state of mind. For me, the thing we do most naturally has been the most helpful, breathing. We see breathing come up so frequently in coaching sessions in the corporate environment; so simple, yet effective.

Breathe in for three seconds, hold for four, and… exhale.

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