Anxiety and depression cause a 2.2% productivity loss in the South African economy.
This is according to Dr Renata Schoeman, who was speaking on the impact of mental illness on the workforce at the University of Stellenbosch Business School’s Corporate Wellness Day in Port Elizabeth.
Schoeman said the increase of mental illness in the world meant that levels only predicted for 2030 had already been reached this year.
“In South Africa, one out of four people suffer from mental health issues,” she said.
“It is estimated that 75% of South Africans living with mental health issues are either not diagnosed or are not getting help.”
The country was short of 646 psychiatrists and 466 psychologists.
“We have to focus on prevention,” Schoeman said.
In South Africa the loss of productivity due to mental health problems was estimated to be R17-billion per annum.
Of this, R15-billion is lost due to presenteeism and R2-billion to absenteeism.
Presenteeism is defined as a situation where employees are at work but cannot do any tasks due to their illness.
Schoeman said while South African psychologists and psychiatrists did not accept a diagnosis of burnout, it was regarded as a mental disorder in some countries.
“We define burnout as the emotional and physical exhaustion from work circumstances that leads to feelings of failure and being worn out,” she said.
Schoeman said about 8 000 people committed suicide in South Africa every year and there was an average of 230 suicide attempts a day.
“Studies show that one in 10 people take time off work for depression. The money the country is losing is more than we make from tourism,” she said.
University of Stellenbosch Business School director Professor Piet Naude warned that the country should not fall into despondency.
“Our country is not well at present,” he said.
“Our saving grace does not lie with parliament but with civil society and the legal system.
“We can no longer sit at home, braai and complain. We have to do something.”