Miss South Africa 2020, Shudufhadzo Musida raises awareness and educates South African citizens about mental health in her #MindfulMondays series on Instagram.
By Aphiwe Mhlangulana (Varsity Contributor)
World statistics estimate that between 12% and 48% of people are living with mental illness. Between 8.4% and 33.6% of those living with mental illness are from low- and middle-income countries. In South Africa, mental health is on the periphery. This has resulted in mental health issues not receiving the necessary attention and those suffering from mental illnesses not getting quality treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already challenged public health care system, and those who suffer from mental illnesses have felt the effects. Reports on the relationship between COVID-19 and mental health state that 45% of South Africans were fearful, while 33% were depressed and 29% felt lonely during the country’s first lockdown. Many South Africans have reported that this period has been a very emotionally and mentally testing period.
One of the crucial problems faced about mental health is the stigma often attached to having a mental illness. To help address this, Shudufhadzo Musida, Miss South Africa of 2020, started a series of conversations titled #MindfulMondays on her Instagram account @ shudufhadzomusida in collaboration with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). These conversations are held every Monday and focus on questions and myths around mental health, bullying and access to mental health facilities in South Africa.
In one of her most recent series of #MindfulMondays, she touched on the accessibility of mental health care in South Africa and where individuals can seek assistance. The Department of Health has listed 53% of the hospitals in the country as providers of 72-hour assessments of psychiatric emergencies. However, SADAG has proclaimed that many of these hospitals often do not have the staff or capacity to meet mental health care needs. In a conversation with Shudufhadzo on #Mindful Mondays, Zamo Mbele, a board member at SADAG, estimated that the current ratio is 1.00 clinical psychologists to 100 000 people. This displays the extreme shortage of healthcare staff and the inaccessibility of these resources for South Africans who need mental health services. It is also worth acknowledging that many South Africans, especially those living in rural areas, cannot access these facilities. Individuals in these areas must travel long distances to access health care.
The #MindfulMondays series has become an educational platform for some and presented validation for others. Seeing Black professionals having conversations about how mental health affects the Black community has helped address some of the myths and the stigma attached to mental illnesses, especially in the Black community. #MindfulMondays is a starting point that can be used to encourage more conversations around mental illnesses and how they affect our communities.
While the reign of Shudufhadzo as Miss South Africa has come to an end, I hope that the series will still continue and that more people will gain exposure to these impactful and educational conversations.