You’ll be shocked at how dismissive people are of mental health

A recent story about a CEO's surprisingly understanding response to an employee’s need to take a mental health day was largely met with adulation – but not so much by readers on News24’s Facebook page.

"Let her take a day, i don't want to be a working with a psycho [sic]"

"I'd give her the day off. Ever see how mental a woman can go? [sic]"

"So very true, guess who is responsable for woman loosing it? [sic]

"Would tell her to go work at a mental institution [sic]"

"Request admittance letter to asylum."

It’s staggering that such opinions still exist in 2017 when more than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression and close to 800 000 people die by suicide every year.

In South Africa, about a fifth (20%) of the population will experience a depressive disorder at least once in their lifetime and the incidence of suicide has risen to 23 a day, says the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG).

According to the World Health Organization depression and other mental health conditions are on the rise globally.

Yet the negative stigma surrounding mental health still exists.

Why the stigma?

"There is still a huge amount of stigma [about mental illnesses] in our communities and this is largely due to the fact a lot of people still do not understand mental illnesses," says Nkini Pasha, a SADAG board member.

"There are a lot of myths around what causes mental illnesses, and people find it difficult to define mental illnesses."

Pasha says the key to fighting this stigma is education.

“Depression affects cognitive functioning such as decision making, concentration, memory and problem solving abilities. Depression negatively impacts productivity," says psychiatrist and clinical psychologist Dr Frans Korb. "If an employee has depression but is at work, they are five times less productive than an employee who was absent due to depression."

Not all negative

The feedback wasn't all negative, however. Many positive comments came through, too.

"Just a personal opinion but – society accepts people who are on chronic meds for different types of illnesses and treat these people with care. However, is the brain and therefore the mind not part of our physical make-up? It is certainly time that society wakes up to the fact that mental well-being is essential. Depression, anxiety, stress and all the 'dark' places are a reality and can – and should be – treated and accepted with the same quality of care and understanding that is given to any 'visible' illness [sic]." 

"Mental illness is exactly that, an illness and therefore, should be treated with the same urgency as a health illness."

"Add it on Labour act. I support this one [sic]."

Want to read all the comments? Click on the Facebook link below.

If you would like get in touch to share your thoughts, please email Mandy Freeman.

Read more:

20% increase in global depression in a decade

Should you tell your boss about your mental illness?

How to support someone with depression