In a country with a chronic shortage of healthcare professionals, and a significant disease burden, it may come as no surprise to hear that doctors are 2.5 times more likely than anyone else to take their own lives. As South Africa grapples with an increase in the number of COVID-19 infections, the challenges faced by healthcare workers are more significant than ever.
And it's not just qualified doctors who fall into this category, but also medical students - particularly those doing their community service, often in difficult situations where they find themselves dealing with life and death cases daily.
But how can this be? After all, doctors study medicine and surely, they can see the symptoms of depression coming? The answer, in a word, is stigma. Like most South Africans, they're often simply too scared or embarrassed to admit they have a mental health problem and seek help.
This is what prompted Cipla, in partnership with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), to become involved in the #Socks4Docs campaign in South Africa. The campaign was started by an Australian doctor, Geoff Toogood (www.crazysocks4docs.com.au
), who has experience with both depression and anxiety. It seeks to reduce the stigma associated with depression and ultimately decrease the high suicide rate among healthcare professionals, by raising awareness about the issue.
"The central message of the campaign is that doctors are just like everyone else - simply humans, dealing with a lot of 'stuff', in a world that relies heavily on them. By doing something as fun and simple as wearing colourful, funky socks on Friday, 5 June, South Africans will be (literally) standing in solidarity alongside these extremely important members of our society," said Paul Miller, CEO of Cipla South Africa.
To create awareness about this vital issue, Cipla will be donating funky socks to medical professionals countrywide. "It's important that everyone - including healthcare professionals - break the stigma around mental health, and remember that there is help and there is hope. This campaign is an important opportunity for each and every one of us to 'care for our carers', especially considering the challenging circumstances that medical professionals are currently working in," said Miller.
Now you have a reason to wear those single/odd socks that come out of the washing machine; post a photo on social media on Friday, 5 June, with the hashtag #Socks4Docs to support this initiative.
The #Socks4Docs campaign comes after the successful launch of The Lockline, a short-form, web-based comedy series featuring well-known SA personalities, which aims to create awareness around mental health issues South Africans are facing during the Covid-19 lockdown. The show features Sipumziwe 'Pags' Lucwaba and Lihle Msimang as life coaches offering wisdom and sharing lockdown coping methods with callers, with famous faces, such as Khanyi Mbau, Graeme Smith, Ntando Duma and Lasizwe dropping in to add their voices and chaos to the 'counselling' on offer.
If you know of anyone (even someone who is not in the medical profession), who needs help or is battling with suicidal thoughts, take them seriously. Call the Cipla 24-hour mental health helpline on 0800 456 789 or WhatsApp 076 882 2775 for free counselling from a trained SADAG counsellor.