Violence in South Africa
South Africa has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world, and crime reports alone should have an impact on most people. Those who return to South Africa after visiting abroad often find themselves shocked by how insecure they feel here.
LISE ASK: We all live with violence on a daily basis in our country. Those of us who do not experience it firsthand, read about it in the newspaper and hear and see it on the radio and on television. Surely it should have an effect on most people?
LOUIS ANSWER: Absolutely. South Africa has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world, and crime reports alone should have an impact on most people. Those who return to South Africa after visiting abroad often find themselves shocked by how insecure they feel here.
LISE ASK: Is crime and violence the same thing?
LOUIS ANSWER: No. In violent crime there is a perpetrator and a victim, and only the perpetrator participates voluntarily. The victim has no choice. A boxing fight is also violent, but it is not a crime because both parties voluntarily participate and have to obey certain rules during the fight.
LISE ASK: What psychological condition can people who have been exposed to violent crime develop, even those who have not yet directly dealt with it?
LOUIS ANSWER: Anxiety among a very large number of South Africans can be directly attributed to our high violent crime rate. Anxiety is, by definition, something one can only have about the future, not the past. Generalized anxiety disorder can develop over concerns related to safety and security. We also know that anxiety and depression are very closely related, and it is already known that many South Africans suffer from depression, regardless of their socio-economic circumstances. Someone who has been exposed to a violent crime may also develop post-traumatic stress disorder. It is a severe form of anxiety disorder. Even those who are not directly exposed but still very closely involved with the victim (eg family or friends) may develop the symptoms. In this case, we're talking about a secondary post-traumatic stress disorder.
LISE ASK: That's right! But how does one stay mentally healthy amid all the violence?
LOUIS ANSWER: Of course, this is difficult, but you have to be realistic. It does not help us deny what is happening around us because it can lead to unconscious anxiety. The antidote for anxiety is control, but then only what you can control. Working on a probable attack in the future is fruitless, because you can't control it. You can, however, plan what you are going to do if you are attacked, or you can do as much as possible to make sure you are not attacked. Because people's circumstances are different, everyone's planning and care will look different. However, in this way, it is important that people take control of a situation over which they otherwise have no control.