Coronavirus and mental health

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By Khanyisa Makhubele

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 5 of VARSITY News.


“We will therefore, in the context of the declaration of a national disaster, close the residences. Students must therefore vacate the residences within 72 hours from 16 March 2020.”

This is quoted from an email that was sent to the student population on Sunday, 15 March 2020 just after 22h00. It is now 57 days since President Ramaphosa’s announcement that South Africa would be going into a national lockdown.

A lot has happened since then; lockdown extensions, changes from one phase to another and the introduction of online learning for several institutions. All this has had an impact on the mental health of every person. The term lockdown in itself carries much weight, weight that has had to be carried onto the shoulders of all South Africans.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as a state of wellbeing in which an individual realizes their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to contribute to the community.

According to public health specialists, although social distancing helps to slow down the spread of Covid-19, it will have a negative impact on the mental health of individuals, more specifically, an increase in cases of anxiety, depression and substance-use disorders is expected.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) released statistics showing that one in six South Africans suffer from anxiety, depression and substance use problems. Pandemics are associated with increases in the prevalence of these mental disorders, we should therefore initiate efforts aimed at addressing the sequalae of Covid-19.


A few tips on staying mentally healthy during a global pandemic: 

  1. Exercise and stay active by walking, running or even doing household chores.
  2. It is important to try to eat healthy. Eating nutritious meals affects your mood and mental health.
  3. Stay connected with friends and family through voice or video calls and text messages.
  4. Take some time off of the news. It is important to stay updated, however, taking some time off may help your mental health.
  5. Ask for help when you need it.


It is vital to remember that mental health refers to more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities but also, maintaining a state of wellness and happiness.


A few helpful contacts: 

SADAG suicide crisis line – 0800 567 567 SADAG

Mental Health line – 011 234 4837

UCT Student Wellness – 021 650 5620

Student COVID19 Hotline – 021 650 1271


Lexi nga heriki xa hlola, this too shall pass.


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