Neuropsychiatric disorders have the third highest disease prevalence in South Africa behind HIV and other infectious diseases, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Thursday.
"Another major concern is that both global and local studies show that mental ill-health features prominently in its high level of co-morbidity with infectious diseases, such as HIV and Aids and tuberculosis," Motsoaledi said in a speech prepared for delivery.
He said he was not surprised to hear that 43 percent of people living with HIV also had a mental disorder.
This showed an obvious link for mental health being both a precursor and a consequence of HIV.
The everyday stresses of living in a developing country for many South Africans was a further contributing factor.
"The adverse living conditions, racial discrimination, childhood trauma, and alienation brought about by the political, social and -economic conditions has resulted in significant mental health challenges and continues to put many of our citizens at risk."
High levels of violence and trauma in society also had a negative impact.
He said according to the 2004 SA stress and health survey, 16.5 percent of adults had experienced a mood, anxiety or substance use disorder in previous months.
There also continued to be an over-reliance on psychiatric hospitals as the mode for care, treatment and rehabilitation. However infrastructure of these facilities was problematic.
"...Our infrastructure audit shows that the psychiatric hospitals are dilapidated and inappropriate for the modern requirements despite all the resources dedicated to revitalising infrastructure."
Hurdles which faced mental health improvement included lack of community-based mental health services, inadequate public awareness of mental health, stigmatisation and discrimination.
He said the mental health system mirrored many of the characteristics and problems within the health sector.
"We must accept and with humility, take responsibility where we have failed the country and now do what is necessary to rectify previous neglect or mistakes that we may have made," said Motsoaledi.