Behind the Masks: Mental Health, Marginalisation and COVID-19


Rebecca Walker and Jo Vearey discuss how COVID-19 is impacting mental health and existing inequalities in South Africa.

As the numbers of people vaccinated against Covid-19 in high-income countries increase and lockdown restrictions on movement, travel and social interaction relax, just how far South Africa and many other low and middle-income countries are being left-behind is increasingly realised. By definition, a pandemic is global, and an international, justice-driven public health response is needed. Yet awareness of the clear gaps in our response to the pandemic only increases distress and a sense of despair in a country that is already fragile and wounded. Questions about how people can deal with so much loss of life; of livelihoods; of routine; of safety; of social contact and, for many the last threads of security frame many national and local conversations.

In countries like South Africa – still caught in the third wave – concerns about the extent of the mental, emotional and psychological distress are heightened by the absence of a tangible ‘end date’ to the pandemic. While the vaccine rollout has recently been stepped up and, at the time of writing approximately 7% of the adult population have been vaccinated, this remains inadequate, particularly given the extent of vaccine hesitancy and failures to clearly address the challenges of those without documents to access the vaccine. Yet with the increasing recognition that life has fundamentally changed in many ways people still want – and need – to be able to talk about a time ‘after Covid-19’ and, behind the masks, the grief, anxiety, fear and frustrations that result from living through a pandemic continue to grow.

The full article is available here


Image credit: Senzo Shabangu @senza_shabangu