COVID-19 has probably had an impact on everyone, globally. Some people have been affected directly by the virus, many people have been affected by restrictions on movement and travel, but most people have experienced increased stress and anxiety levels as a result of the global pandemic we are currently experiencing. As a result, the number of persons affected by mental health conditions has increased enormously, which is likely to put strain on the global mental health sector for years to come. With South Africa now being ranked in the Top 5 of the countries with the highest number of recorded COVID-19 cases, the impact this will have on the South African mental health sector is indeed worrying.
At this time, community-based mental health organisations deal with a number of simultaneous challenges. One of the main tasks is to try to protect persons with mental disabilities in their care from exposure to the virus - as far as this is possible. Organisations also need to deal with an increased workload arising from an increase in the number of persons whose mental health has been affected by COVID-19. At the same time, many organisations need to deal with staff shortages, as some staff are placed in isolation.
The pandemic has also put an additional financial burden on the mental health sector. Donations, income and funding have decreased as a result of the pandemic, while the need for resources and funding has actually increased enormously. Many organisations cannot even afford to purchase the much-needed sanitisers and personal protective equipment (such as face masks and gloves), which puts both their staff and beneficiaries at risk of infection.