In a state of neurosis

13 August 2015 - 02:05 By Babalo Ndenze and Poppy Louw

Tens of thousands of government employees suffer from chronic mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but are too reluctant to disclose their conditions. MPs yesterday raised concerns about the stigma attached to some of the disorders, considered "disabilities" by the Department of Public Service and Administration.The department briefed the public service and administration committee and released the latest Government Employees Medical Scheme statistics, which showed that at least 32069 principal Gems members suffer from chronic depression, 5837 had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and 727 of them had schizophrenia.The committee heard hat many of those diagnosed with mental illnesses were reluctant to come forward to disclose what is classified as a "disability".Committee chairman Peace Mabe said: "I must be honest, it is a big number to be concerned about, especially within the public service if we do have people who are on chronic medication, on mental-related conditions."It is a worrying number. It is worse that they do not disclose."Teachers union Naptosa president Basil Manuel said teachers, much like social workers, often took on the problems of those around them "without any proper support".He added that at least 60% of teachers have dealt with, trauma at some point in their careers.SA Depression and Anxiety Group operations director Cassey Chambers said healthcare professionals and other public servants who turned to them for help dealt with a combination of issues they faced both at work and at home.An administration clerk who works at the SA Social Security Agency claims to have suffered from emotional trauma as a result of her work.The woman, who asked not to be named, said "too much" emphasis was placed on service delivery over the needs of staff."Our work sometimes forces us to be social workers, nurses, or take on other roles and we don't get enough time to take care of our mental wellbeing," the Sassa worker said.

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