There has been an increasing concern regarding the contribution of mental health issues to the burden of disease

There has been an increasing concern regarding the contribution of mental health issues to the burden of disease. This concern stems from the fact that mental health issues amount to about 10% of diseases, and are particularly more prevalent in lower income countries (Campbell & Burgess, 2012). In South Africa these numbers of people with mental disorders are more shocking, and are partly affected by the legacy of Apartheid which sought to privilege one race over other races, even in mental healthcare (Johnston, 2015). As a consequence of this, the discipline of psychology has been criticised and accused of not attending to most of the mental health needs of South Africans. This paper will critically discuss some of these criticisms. Additionally, it will suggest ways in which these can be addressed by primarily looking at task-shifting.
Globally, mental disorders amount to approximately 13% of the burden of diseases, with less than 1% of people who are affected receiving formal treatment in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) (Kleinman, 2013). In South Africa, this is particularly worrying as nearly one in three (33%) of South Africans will suffer from one or more mental disorder(s) in his/her lifetime, which is a much higher prevalence than many LMICs (Jack, Wagner, Petersen, Thom, Newton, Stein & Hofman, 2014). Furthermore, in South Africa; of those adults who are affected, almost 75% have not received any treatment (Burns, 2014). This is known as the treatment gap- the number of people who have a mental disorder yet have not received any formal treatment (Whitley, 2015). As a result of these shocking figures, the profession of psychology is often criticised for not attending to the mental health needs of most South African.
The relevance of psychology has been questioned in South Africa, due to the Eurocentric and Westernisation of most of its theories and practice in this country (Long, & Foster, 2013). The consequence of this means that the mental health needs of most black South Africans are not catered for by mainstream psychology as it only caters and benefits white middle class individuals (Hickson & Kriegler, 1991). Furthermore, Western psychology has a tendency to be culture- bound and culture-blind and marginalises African thinking and the spiritual side of many black people, as a result, black people who do seek help from mainstream psychology can be pathologised (Hickson & Kriegler, 1991). To further exacerbate the issue of the relevance of psychology to most people in South Africa is the skewed racial demographics of its professionals which are not reflective of the South African population (Pillay & Siyothula, 2008).