Addressing Mental Health in South Africa

April 30, 2020

This comprehensive guide outlines how companies can be aware of how access, cost, coverage, stigma and other challenges vary in different markets, and highlights company strategies, country snapshots and resources that may be useful as they implement their programs around the world.

This section covers information about mental health stigma, access and treatment, and provides recommendations for employers and resources on NGOs/National Campaigns in South Africa.

About 75% of South Africans with mental health disorders go untreated.52 Like many countries in Africa, public infrastructure has been crumbling under the weight of the
demand for health care, especially because of the impact of HIV; this has been true of the mental health care system as well.

  • There are about 13,000 mental health therapists in South Africa (2.75 per 100,000 population), and 90% of those are serving the 37 million people who live in urban areas.

Snapshot of the Health System Landscape

hospital bed

Mental hospital beds: 16.56 per 100,000 population.

General hospital psychiatric unit beds: 4.43 per 100,000 population.


Government mental health spend as % of total health spend

The majority of persons pay at least 20% toward the cost of mental health services/psychotropic medicine..

yes check

National health insurance or reimbursement scheme includes the care and treatment of persons with major mental disorders (defined as psychosis, bipolar disorder, depression).*

health care workers

Total mental health workers: 146.19 per 100,000 population


The majority of persons pay at least 20% toward the cost of mental health services/psychotropic medicine..

no check

No government-adopted or national policy for suicide prevention strategy

12% of inpatient populations stays for more than a year

12% of the inpatient population stays for more than a year.

*According to data submitted to the World Health Organization (2017)

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  • In the rural areas, there are only about 7 psychiatrists serving 18 million people.53
  • Researchers estimate that only 0.89% and 7.35% of the uninsured population of South Africa requiring care receives some form of public inpatient and outpatient treatment, respectively, leading to a treatment gap of 92%.54
  • Experts report that at times, family members say they have called the police on family members in order to get them access to inpatient treatment.55

Addressing Mental Health in South Africa

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