Christianity is one of the largest common denominators within South Africa’s diverse population, and spans across our social, economic, cultural and educational divide.
ATS serves the Christian network. With the Higher Certificate in Pastoral Counselling ATS wants to equip and mobilise the Christian network to shoulder some of the burden of the vast humanitarian crises in South Africa. This is the best solution we can offer in answer to the overwhelming need.
South Africa is a traumatised society
The socio-economic situation in South Africa is the context in which the Higher Certificate in Pastoral Counselling has been developed.
In 2019, there was an average of 1.1 farm murders per week, along with an average of 1.5 farm attacks per day, according to AfriForum. They emphasise that this violence does not only focus on the owners of farms but that 26% of attacks were aimed at farm workers. They report that “victims and their families are left with severe trauma as well as emotional and psychological damage.”
The current expanded unemployment rate (which includes unemployed people who have given up looking for work) is 35.3% (International Monetary Fund, April 2020). To give context to this situation, during the Great Depression in the USA unemployment was 25% and it was classified as a humanitarian disaster. With regard to mental health and pastoral counselling, many studies worldwide have shown that the poor are at greater risk for various kinds of family problems, including divorce and domestic violence. It is expected that unemployment will increase due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
South Africa has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world, with an estimated 7.7 million people living with HIV. In 2018, 71 000 South Africans have died from AIDS-related illnesses (UNAIDS, 2018).
More than 2.3 million children in South Africa have been orphaned by HIV and AIDS (Kaiser Family Foundation 2015). These are children with minimum training opportunities, no financial resources, minimum parental guidance and assistance; children in an unprecedented battle for survival. The world has yet to handle an orphan crisis of this magnitude.
It is estimated that a woman born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read. South Africa’s rape statistics are double the country’s murder rate and equates to one person getting raped every 13 minutes (SAP, December 2013). The levels of violence against women represent a state of emergency for victims and survivors of this violence as they experience serious long-term physical and psychological harm.
Research has shown a strong association between men’s own prior exposure to violence and their subsequent use of violence. Men who have been abused during childhood, are 5 times as likely to use violence against women. Worryingly, the majority of men interviewed in a study by Wits-Sonke, experienced at least one type of physical or sexual childhood abuse. More than one-third had been raped or molested as a child, and more than half of men experienced one or more adult traumas. Men with signs of depression were three times as likely to use violence. (Wits-Sonke study, November 2016).
The above is a brief summary of some aspects of the South African socio-economic situation that contribute to it being a traumatised society. This, combined with the fact that there is a great scarcity of public mental health services in South Africa to address the mental health consequences of such widespread exposure to generalised violence, poverty and deprivation, worsens the need.
The South African government cannot address the mental health need alone. Civil society, churches, NGOs and the private sector all need to actively be involved in addressing this mental health crisis in whichever way possible. It is not optional anymore. The above reality is the major reason that led ATS to the development of the Higher Certificate in Pastoral Counselling. We want to invest in a large grass-roots network to be mobilised in answer to the mental health crisis of South Africa.
As a Christian in South Africa, we urge you to continue to earnestly pray for our country, and let the Holy Spirit guide you.