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Breaking The Stigma: Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality health coverage, offers practical steps to promote mental well-being.

“According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, one in three South Africans suffers from a mental health disorder,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

“Unfortunately, stigma, lack of treatment resources, and insufficient support often exacerbate these issues. However, this suffering is preventable.”

What is Mental Health?

Mental health encompasses our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, forming the foundation of how we experience and interact with the world.

Mental health is crucial at every stage of life. It supports emotional and cognitive development during childhood and adolescence, helping children build resilience, develop social skills, and achieve educational milestones.

Mental health plays a crucial role in adulthood in maintaining personal and professional relationships, contributing to work performance, and managing life transitions and stressors.

Common Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues are varied and can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. Some of the most common conditions include:

Depression: About 9.7% of South Africans will experience depression at some point in their lives. Depression can be mild to severe and includes symptoms like persistent sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, and frequent tearfulness. Many people with depression also experience anxiety.

Anxiety Disorders: About 15.8% of South Africans will deal with an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. These include generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder, all of which involve excessive fear or worry.

Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar disorder involves extreme mood swings. These include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). These mood swings can impact your sleep, energy, behaviour, judgment, and ability to think clearly.

Schizophrenia: This severe disorder impacts how a person thinks, feels, and behaves, often leading to hallucinations and delusions.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD develops after a traumatic event and causes severe anxiety, flashbacks, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Higher rates of PTSD are seen in communities affected by violence and crime.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is characterised by uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviours (compulsions) that individuals feel compelled to perform.

The Impact of Stigma

The stigma around mental health may discourage individuals from getting necessary care, leading to prolonged suffering and worsened symptoms.

Stigma can appear in different forms, such as:

Social Stigma: This involves negative stereotypes and discrimination from others. People with mental health issues may be unfairly judged, labelled, or isolated by those around them.

Self-Stigma: This occurs when individuals internalise negative beliefs and stereotypes about mental health. They may feel shame, guilt, or unworthiness, which can further harm their self-esteem and mental well-being.

Structural Stigma: This is found in institutional policies and practices that limit opportunities for people with mental health conditions. These can include discriminatory hiring practices, inadequate mental health coverage in insurance policies, or lack of accommodations in educational settings.

Breaking the Stigma

Breaking the stigma around mental health requires a collective effort. Here are some ways we can contribute:

  1. Education: Learning about mental health conditions and their impact helps dispel myths and reduces fear and misunderstanding.
  2. Open Conversations: Talking openly about mental health in everyday conversations normalises the topic and encourages others to share their experiences.
  3. Empathy and Support: Offering a listening ear and compassionate support can make a significant difference to someone struggling with mental health.
  4. Challenging Stereotypes: Actively challenge and correct stereotypes and derogatory remarks related to mental health.
  5. Advocacy: Support policies and initiatives that promote mental health awareness, improve access to care, and safeguard the rights of people with mental health conditions.

Promoting Mental Well-Being

Mental well-being is not just the absence of mental illness. It’s about thriving, reaching your potential, handling everyday stress, working well, and contributing to your community. Here are some ways to boost mental well-being:

  1. Stay Active: Regular physical activity can boost mood, reduce anxiety, and improve overall mental health.
  2. Healthy Diet: Eating a balanced diet supports your physical and mental health. Choose foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins.
  3. Adequate Sleep: Consistent, restful sleep promotes emotional regulation, concentration, and overall mental health.
  4. Mindfulness and Relaxation: Meditation, yoga, and deep-breathing exercises may help reduce stress.
  5. Social Connections: Maintaining healthy relationships with family, friends, and community members provides emotional support and reduces feelings of isolation.
  6. Professional Help: It’s important to get help from mental health professionals like therapists, counsellors, or psychiatrists when dealing with mental health issues.


Despite the significant strides made in recent years, mental health remains a topic shrouded in stigma and misunderstanding. It’s time to break down these barriers. We can create a more compassionate and informed society by educating ourselves and others, fostering open conversations, and supporting those in need. Remember, your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and taking care of it is crucial for leading a fulfilling and happy life.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading health coverage provider, offering you a range of options at affordable rates, including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, budget, and lifestyle. Our healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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