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South Africans are in a mental health crisis

11 July 2020

According to Old Mutual, the group has paid out 59% more in disability income claims relating to psychiatric disorders since 2016

Death claims due to suicide have also increased by 24% between 2018 and 2019.

Millions of South Africans battle psychiatric disorders and mental illness daily, many struggling in secret out of fear of stigmatisation and alienation.

Dr Kerissa Naidoo, Old Mutual’s Chief Medical Officer, says the majority of the disability claims for psychiatric disorders were by policyholders suffering severe depression.


“Our overall experience with psychiatric disorders shows that most claims were for major depression. Other psychiatric disorder claims are attributed to bipolar mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depressive episodes, adjustment disorders, and stress,” she says.

Mental illness is still a silent killer

Although there is more information available about mental illness, especially depression and anxiety, there is still a stigma around mental illness. This means many people with mental illness could still find it hard to talk to friends and family about what they are going through and as a result, face serious illness alone.
“In our families and in society, we often steer away from discussing depression, along with other mental illnesses, because of the stigma that is unfortunately still attached to them. But the hard truth is that we cannot ignore the widespread impact of these mental illnesses on patients, their loved ones and their ability to function, earn an income or play an active role in their communities,” says Dr Naidoo

Mental illness affects us all

Mental illness is a social issue that affects our communities in many ways. One of the ways is a loss of income due to the inability to work or even death.

According to Old Mutual’s statistics, around 83% of claims made for psychiatric illness are made by people of working age (between 30-50 years old).

Being unable to work because of mental illness can add additional financial stress for you and your family. Dr Naidoo says making financial plans for this possibility could cushion the consequences of mental illness.

“Our experience shows that anyone can be affected by mental illness. Nobody can predict the future or anticipate exactly which adverse life events could affect our well-being, whether emotionally or physically, but we can plan for it. With alarm bells ringing, it is important that we take charge of our own peace of mind and encourage people in need to seek help today,” she concludes.



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