UKZN Medical students supported the #CrazySocks4Docs (CS4D) campaign to show solidarity for all medical professionals and students living with depression and other mental challenges.
As part of the campaign, Falke, the Ithemba Foundation and Cipla donated 12 000 pairs of high quality, highly visible socks to medical professionals and students around South Africa.
The idea was to encourage as many participants as possible to wear the bright and mismatched socks on 7 June and post pictures of themselves and others on social media with the hash tag #CrazySocks4Docs and #ithembafoundation.
President of UKZN’s Medical School Student Representative Council, Mr Ali Mlambo, said CS4D awareness brought to light very important issues in the medical fraternity.
‘There are many factors that contribute to mental ill-health problems among students and also healthcare professionals so research in this area would help to positively influence approaches and interventions,’ said Mlambo.
‘I would like to see more targeted programmes to address mental health issues, starting with de-stigmatising the problem and encouraging sufferers to seek professional help, especially Black students, as well as programmes to raise awareness and educate students on how to protect and take better care of their mental health, and the creation of environments that promote good mental wellbeing,’ he said.
‘More emphasis is needed on traditional, spiritual and other alternative approaches to therapy.’
The mental strain on medical professionals working in South Africa is immense at times. It is well-documented that levels of depression and mental fatigue are particularly high among professionals who dedicate their lives to the treatment of others.
A Cape Town study titled: A Bitter Pill to Swallow, found that 30% of public primary healthcare doctors are living with moderate to severe depression. At the same time, it is estimated that around a third of South African Medical students have suicidal thoughts, and that over 6% of Medical students attempt suicide.
The #CrazySocks4Docs campaign, which aims to highlight such issues and give moral support to Medical professionals battling with mental health issues, was launched in Australia in 2017.
Falke SA group marketing executive Keaton Quarmby says that Falke is proud to support the initiative and help raise awareness of the pressure on doctors and health care professionals in South Africa and the impact it has on their well-being. ‘We would like to start a conversation and raise awareness and open dialogue around doctors with mental health issues, and encourage them to seek help if they need it.
Said Paul Miller, CEO of Cipla Medpro: ‘The #CrazySocks4Docs campaign is about highlighting the highly stressful nature of the medical profession and reminding doctors that they must also ask for help when they need medical care – whether it is physical or mental. We want to help reshape the culture of the medical industry and show doctors that their colleagues are there to give them support when they need it. At the same time, we also want to encourage the rest of the world to help take care of those who care for them.’
Said Ms Suzanne Stokes, student counsellor at UKZN’s College of Health Sciences: ‘Let’s make a difference and speak about the unspoken topic of mental health. Let’s show care for our carers!’
Supporting the campaign, fifth-year Medical student at UKZN, Mr Mpilo Sbusiso Bhengu said: ‘Your Mental Health Matters. Depression is real and it is not a shame to speak up and ask for help. Who do doctors turn to when they need help? Speak up, call for help and be the good doctor that you are destined to be!!!’
The Ithemba Foundation is a non-profit entity working to raise awareness about depression as a biological illness, and garner funding to support relevant research efforts.
If you or someone you know suffers from a mental health condition, or have suicidal thoughts and are in need of help, call the CIPLA 24-hour mental health helpline on 0800 456 789 or WhatsApp 076 882 2775 for free counselling.
Words: Lihle Sosibo