Home Institution

University of Vermont

Publication Date

Spring 2022

Program Name

South Africa: Community Health and Social Policy


Social Causation theory states that social and economic circumstances cause people to be at a higher risk of mental illness (Lund 2011, p.1). South Africa has high inequality, with racial disparities prevalent in multiple indicators of socioeconomic status. Moreover, mental health in South Africa has often not been prioritized. This project aimed to assess how context impacts relevant aspects of mental health, such as worrying and the mind/body stress-response in Cato Manor. An additional theme of community beliefs on stress emerged from the interviews which is also presented.

For this project, I used a Mixed Methods-Case Study research design. I conducted semi-structured interviews and created questionnaires that I had participants fill out. In the findings section, I present the major themes that arose from the interviews and questionnaires, then go into detail on two case studies that I felt best highlighted how context impacts mental health.

Overall, I found that Money, Unemployment, and The Future are the three most popular worries that participants “think too much about.” Case Study #1 focuses on a context of Unemployment and High Rates of HIV and Case Study #2 involves a context of Poverty and Zulu Ceremonies. The participants in both case studies excessively worried about their problems and experienced psychosocial effects that aligned with previous literature. Family was found to be helpful for coping in different ways. Moreover, community perceptions on stress revealed different responses related to history and stigma that explain why stress is not often discussed.


African Languages and Societies | African Studies | Community Psychology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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