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Depression is mental illness

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Depression is mental illness
CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Boitumelo Makunga

It continues to be a subject spoken about in hushes tones yet everyday all media platforms are littered with tragic stories hinting on depression related outcomes.

Although common, it may seem many are uneasy with sharing the honest truth about their lives especially when faced with challenges.

People are struggling with all kinds of circumstances; finances, relationship matters, illness, loss and work challenges yet many want to give the impression that all is well.

Depression is an unwelcome reality but it is real, says Clinical Psychologist; Boitumelo Makunga.

“ I feel that the area of mental health is not given as much attention as say; Non communicable diseases – hypertension, cancer etc. Also people look at being mentally ill as unthinkable… distasteful (I’m mad,” “People say I’ve lost it;” they think fearfully) and as a result many suffer silently both those afflicted & their loved ones”.

She goes on to say; Mental health; unless there is a family predisposition for one becoming mentally ill; can be prevented like other health conditions; or can be managed with the appropriate treatment and care.

When one’s mental health is in check; they are able to cope with pressures in life.

This is where I come in – with the “Talking Therapy;” talking to promote healing so to speak…to help prevent mental ill health before it starts. Or to recognize that further intervention is needed and refer one to a psychiatrist who will prescribe the appropriate medication and do psychotherapy as well.

As with other health conditions some mental health conditions are acute (and need immediate attention) to be resolved while others are chronic and are managed with medication. Whether a person has acute or chronic mental illness, living a wholesome lifestyle is also key for good health.

Why is Depression a taboo subject?

TRUTHS

* Depression is an illness associated with mental ill health. A treatable condition. It’s not: “snap out of it”……. “pull yourself together”…..”go tla siama”….”be strong”…..type-of-thing.

* It can be hereditary…. like diabetes…or it can be due to stressful events especially where there is loss; e.g. illness (loss of good health). Loss of a job, loss of a relative….

* Golden rule no. 1… anything that diverges from the cultural norm is considered taboo, especially what people consider to be “unusual behavior,” [Consider phrases: “o bua thata ka pelo”…. No one wants to be “labeled” as “Mentally-ill.” Labels “stick” even when you do things “properly,” you’re deemed mad or disregarded.

HOW CAN WE HELP (FAMILY, FRIENDS, COLLEAGUES)

* The ones who care will speak up in a caring manner…alerting you to changes they notice, it’s up to the person afflicted to “catch the life-line…. of course this is not as simple as it seems…. then maybe “Plan B”…. tough love; be persistent in helping the person. If “Plan B” fails be aware that you tried to help and you can’t save everyone.

HOW CAN PEOPLE HELP THEMSELVES

* Golden rule no. 2… relate well with the people around you…….they maybe the ones to catch you “when you fall.” Treat other people the way you would like to be treated.

* Appreciate other people

* Live life with a purpose – within reason….don’t let other people define you.

* Value yourself as person…..look after yourself first, love yourself

* Don’t depend “totally” on another for your happiness

* Take care of your being (“here”) Physically (exercise/ keep-fit, “eat right”),

* Take care of your being Emotionally…. e.g. accept situations as a learning-curve…don’t over-think” things…assert yourself…

* Take care of your being Mentally…e.g. avoid following routine year-in, year-out; stimulate your mind through learning & self-development….”walk the unbeaten path,” plan – if at first you don’t succeed: try, try & try again.

* Take care of your being Spiritually…this can be through “organized religion” e.g. being part of a church community…or meditate; this helps remove focus from you, calms you & helps you realize that you a functioning part of “larger universe”

* Remove focus from yourself & your needs by doing community-work, taking care of the environment

* Realize that at some point everyone goes through challenges/ problems/ stress….

* Consider your issues & their issue(s) from a broader perspective…. e.g. “what part did I play in getting myself to this point?”…”Could I have done more to help?” – if “no” move on

* Admit there’s a problem…first step to seeking help

* Talk to someone you trust (who won’t ridicule you)

* Consult a health-care provider, who may refer them to mental-health professional i.e. a psychologist…or counselor…or a psychiatrist.

How can one identify that they are depressed (any signs to look out for?)

BEHAVIOURAL DEFINITIONS OF DEPRESSION:

* Change in eating pattern; either loss of appetite or comfort eating. /Noticeable weight-gain…. or weight-loss

* Depressed mood or feeling “low” or “down,” or tearful (crying allot).

* Loss of interest or loss of enjoyment in activities that one normally looks forward to.

* Insomnia (sleeplessness)…or hypersomnia (sleeping all day…refusing to get out of bed…)… OR a change in pattern of sleep; either easily fall asleep then wake up in the early hours (e.g. 2am) & unable to go back to sleep…OR unable to sleep until early morning hours (e.g. 4am).

* Lack of energy…. always tired.

* Lack of concentration…or “excessive” absent-mindedness

* Social withdrawal…preferring to be on one’s own.

* Suicidal thoughts &/ or gestures or threats

* Feeling of hopelessness…worthlessness…or misplaced guilt.

* Low self-esteem

* Irritability

* Feelings of anxiety…. or agitation

* Increase in chemical-substance use e.g. smoking more, use of alcohol or drugs to “numb”…. or drown pain. (Most common in men).

* Signs & symptoms vary from person to person.

* Symptoms should present most of the time for at least 2 weeks.

* Symptoms are frequently worse at a particular time of day…e.g. maybe more severe in the morning & improve toward evening.

* Depression is “insidious”…Symptoms may develop over a period of weeks or months.