The problems with mental health among young people in South Africa are very bad. The numbers show a serious situation. Up to 60% of young people say they need help with their minds. Lots of kids suffer from worry and sadness issues, with not enough care and negative views still there, plus the effects of COVID-19 happening right now. It needs to be fixed right away. Click here to watch when I opened up about my journey with depression.

High Prevalence of Mental Health Needs

Recent surveys have revealed astonishingly high rates of South African youth struggling with their mental wellbeing:

60% of Children and Youth Need Support

A 2023 UNICEF South Africa U-Report survey found that about two out of three kids and young people in South Africa think they need help for their minds. Even though it’s less than 73% in 2022, this number shows that more than half of young people are struggling with their feelings inside their heads.

1 in 4 Experience Mental Health Problems

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one out of every four young people may experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives. This means that about 4.4 million young people in South Africa might deal with mental health issues at some point.

Mental Health Issues Start Early

Studies in South Africa say that mental illness usually starts before you’re 24 years old. Initial support is very important, but most kids can’t get quick treatment because they don’t have access.

Specific Areas of Concern

Certain mental health conditions stand out as particularly affecting South African youth:

Depression and Anxiety are the Most Common

Surveys show depression and anxiety are the predominant issues reported by young South Africans seeking support:

  1. 61% say they need help with depression (SACAP survey)
  2. 65% have problems with worry (SACAP survey)
  3. Women seem to be hit harder, with 69% worried about depression versus 53% of men.

Age 15-24 a Vulnerable Period

Although mental health issues can arise at any age, they appear to be more common in the 15–24 age range. In a 2023 UNICEF survey, 7 out of every 10 young people aged between 15 and 24 said they needed help. This was more than any other group.

Pandemic Exacerbated Existing Problems

The COVID-19 pandemic made problems with mental health worse all over the world. School closures and lockdowns in South Africa made young people feel more isolated and unsure. This made existing problems like not enough money, fighting and no help worse.

Barriers to Accessing Care

For South African youth already experiencing mental health challenges, getting treatment can be extremely difficult:

1. Severe Shortage of Mental Health Professionals

South Africa only has one mental health doctor for every 50,000 people. This is a lot less than the world average, which is one psychiatrist for each 10. </s> Because there is a big shortage, people often have to wait for long times even if they can get the care.

2. Mental Health Stigma Prevents Help-Seeking

Not having enough services and the bad way people view mental illness can make youngsters not look for help. People still judge, feel bad about, and don’t fully understand these conditions.

3. Rural Areas Greatly Underserved

There are even fewer professionals in the country away from big cities. This makes it hard for many poor young people to get in. Telehealth can help, but it is still not enough.

Mental Health: Global Context

While deeply concerning, South Africa’s youth mental health crisis mirrors a global phenomenon:

1. 1 in 7 Adolescents Face Mental Health Conditions

According to WHO, about one in seven young people aged 10-19 have mental health problems. Suicide is a major reason for deaths among this age group. This illustrates a worldwide epidemic.

2. COVID-19 Impacted Mental Health Globally

The pandemic caused a big increase in mental health problems among young people almost everywhere. Being alone, not knowing things, and having problems with services made it very hard for people.

3. Low-Income Nations Most Affected

Not-so-wealthy countries usually have bad mental health services. Hunger and violence issues also affect people’s minds in poor nations. So, South Africa’s problem might be worse in other places, too.

A Call to Action

Stemming the tide of youth mental health issues will require commitment across South African society:

1. Invest in Mental Health Services a

Starting to give better access involves putting money into mental health resources. This includes hiring more people, building more facilities and improving the ability for online therapy. Wait times must be reduced.

2. Raise Awareness and Reduce Stigma

Campaigns to teach people about mental health, cut down on judging, and push for asking for help can really change things. Schools and media can help do this job.

3. Promote Supportive Environments

Parents, teachers, and leaders in the community all have to work together to make good places for kids’ mental health. Having good relationships and talking are very important.

4. Prioritise the Vulnerable

Special work and help should be for those in danger, like teenagers aged 15-24, poor people, and youngsters who say they are LGBTQIA+. We should not leave anyone behind.

5. Global Cooperation and Innovation

As a world problem, sharing knowledge and working together with different countries can speed up answers. We need to look at new, easy-to-grow ways that use technology and studies.

There is Still Hope

Though upsetting, the worst numbers just tell a small part of the story. Every day, young South Africans still enjoy spending time with friends and family, as well as arts and nature. With care and effort, we can join hands to make a place where all young people have the chance to grow strong. They can ask for help without feeling ashamed. Mental health problems may be common, but they are not impossible to overcome. There is still hope. It’s okay not to be okay. Organisations like SADAG can offer online counselling and more.