Recovering our psyche

Raven Benny addresses the need to look for the silver lining and start the Oslow road to recovery as some normalcy returns amid the pandemic

October 10 marked World Mental Health Day. The theme, “Mental Health in an Unequal World”, got me thinking. We are not only living in an unequal world, but an abnormal world too.

We have been enduring the most severe pressure, exacerbated by the current conditions, which is influencing our mental health and lifestyle. We have seen this massive impact due to COVID-19. It is highlighted as the second pandemic around the world.

Yet, we adapted to survive in these trying times. This is incredibly relevant to South Africans as we have a huge disparity in most sectors of our society.

In South Africa, there are not enough mental health resources available, including care facilities, NGOs and mental health professionals. This is quite concerning as the demand for mental healthcare is so high, and increasing since the start of the pandemic. The issue of mental health does not make it onto the agenda for health budgets or policy makers.

But, we have come a long time since March 2020. The damaging effects of the pandemic on our psyche and lives are visible, and our recovery now needs to be addressed. Doing this will be a sign of our ability to adapt in an abnormal world. We overcame so many obstacles and have shown tenacity. We are surviving one of the most devastating pandemics.

And yes, I say surviving because the optimist in me sees the silver lining behind the dark cloud. We are experiencing the lowest level of lockdown restrictions and there is a sense of normalcy returning. The opening of the sporting venues in South Africa and allowing vaccinated spectators to attend for the first time since March 2020 were clear indicators of this. Hopefully, it will be replicated soon in other areas like school sports and religious activities.

We continue to find ways of gradually recuperating our emotional and physical losses. Recognising that nothing will ever be the same again in a post- COVID-19 world, we are getting accustomed to the effects that it has on us.

We have learned to appreciate each other since we saw how easily many lives are lost. We see the need for a more sanitary lifestyle with precautions against infections.

We’ve learned to live without some of the luxuries we grew used to having, and to appreciate the simple things. We also saw how some of our leaders failed us. They are being investigated and, hopefully, will be prosecuted if found guilty.

We are ready, armed with the experience of the past, to move into the future. Now, we need to put pressure on the “powers that be’’ to take us seriously and prioritise our collective issues. We could do this in the local government elections when we choose who should lead our communities.

It is up to us to take responsibility for our overall health. For our sanity and continued good health, we must ensure that we raise the necessary issues, highlight our needs and rights. This approach, I feel, will ensure a healthy balanced life for all.

Raven Benny has been a C5, 6 and 7 quadriplegic since 2000. He is married and has five children, is mad about wheelchair rugby and represented South Africa in 2003 and 2005. He relocated from Cape Town to Durban, where he was appointed the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of QASA from August 1, 2019. email:

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