04 July 2008

25% of SA have mental problems

Up to six million South Africans may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Up to six million South Africans may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It would cost R18bn per year if each of these people received only six psychotherapy sessions at private tariffs.

This is what psychiatrist and former-president of the South African Society of Psychiatry (Sasop) Dr Eugene Allers said at a Gauteng conference in June about the country's load of non-infectious diseases.

Allers said South Africa was a "breeding ground" for psychiatric problems because of, among other things, all the trauma to which people were exposed.

He said statistics showed 25% of South Africans probably had some or other form of psychiatric problem. About a third of these people were between the ages of 30 and 40.

It was alleged that up to 70% of people with psychiatric problems had major (serious) depressions.

Allers said that previous research had shown that up to half of people with major depression also had PTSD.

PTSD was described in the diagnostic manuals that psychiatrists used. It usually comprised, among other things, people having had a traumatic experience and then experiencing flashbacks and emotional problems.

Experts believed that about a quarter to a third of people who were raped, for example, or who witnessed a traumatic incident developed PTSD. The rest process the experience.

Allers said abuse and neglect during a person's childhood could make him more susceptible to developing psychiatric problems.

Allers said that if the South African population was at 50 million people now, a quarter of them would have psychiatric problems, of which 70% would be major depression. Of the people with depression 50% would fulfil the criteria for PTSD, which meant that 4.375 million people needed treatment for the condition.

He added that local studies showed that in some communities 58% to 94% of children had witnessed incidents of violence. About one out of 5 of these children fulfilled the criteria for PTSD. Allers said that there were millions of children requiring treatment for PTSD and that even his estimate of six million people was possibly low.

There were 350 psychiatrists in the country. Allers said 177 worked full-time, 56 part-time and the rest worked for the state.

The country only had about 2 000 psychotherapists in the private sector, but needed many more to be able to help everyone.

"I don't even want to think about the State sector?" There aren't really services of this kind there." – (Antoinette Pienaar, Beeld/News24) (June 2008)

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