Porn addiction, anxiety surged among SA workers during lockdown, workplace counsellors say

Business Insider SA

Worried woman using laptop computer at home

  • There's been increase in reports relating to anxiety, depression, addiction disorder, and suicide among South African employees as they battle with working from home, the head of an employee counseling service says. .
  • Growing uncertainty about whether employees will get paid at the end of the month has caused more stress – especially for those with jobs that do not allow them to work from home.
  • Working from home challenges employees’ mental health and can make enthusiastic and productive employees "unmotivated and irritated".
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South African employees are struggling with the new reality of working from home – and, for some, not being sure if they will get paid – and that is showing up as some serious mental struggles.

“There has been an increase in people seeking help for mental health and psychiatric disorders such as anxiety disorders, predominately adjustment disorders, depression [and] addiction disorders," says Andrew Davies, a clinical psychologist and MD of Independent Counselling and Advisory Services (ICAS) Southern Africa, which provides employee counseling on behalf of companies. He was speaking during a webinar arranged by Business For South Africa, a new organisation that coordinates the corporate response to the Covid19 crisis.

ICAS has seen a 28% increase in requests for help with pornography addiction.  

Although ICAS has not seen an increase in domestic violence reports, the number of employees seeking help with interpersonal relationships at home rose under lockdown.

The organisation has also reported a 100% increase in requests for debt counselling and other requests for budgeting assistance, as well as a 300% increase in request for estate planning assistance and wills.   

Not all employees enjoy working remotely, Davies said.

“We don’t realise that working from home requires particular skills and an environment that is conducive for that and when that isn’t, it sows the seeds for a lot of distress.

Work-from-home jobs can challenge your mental health and can turn normally optimistic, productive workers into tired, unmotivated and irritated people, Davies said.  

The lockdown has been a huge burden for those who can't physically work from home.

This has caused constant worry about whether they will get a salary at the end of the month or if they will even have a job at the end of it all, said Davies.

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