Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month

Twenty percent of South Africans will develop a depressive disorder during their lives, but nearly two-thirds of them will not get the help they require.

The biggest danger of anxiety and depression is risk of suicide. The incidence of suicide in South Africa has soared to 23 a day, reports Cassey Chambers, operations director at the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) – and for every one person who completes a suicide, 10 attempt it.

Life is about relationships, about connections and understanding; support and empathy, according to SADAG. Without it, we feel isolated, alone and misunderstood. For people with a mental disorder, people who have lost loved ones or who have undergone a trauma, this sense of isolation can be as destructive as their diagnosis or the traumatic event, says SADAG.

What is depression?

A depressive disorder affects your body, mood and thoughts, and affects every aspect of your life, such as the way you sleep, eat and think. There is a difference between feeling a bit blue for a day or two and suffering from depression – true depression cannot simply be wished away and can last for months or years. Appropriate treatment can, however, help most people.

The three main types of depression are major depression (disabling episodes of severe depression), dysthymia (long-lasting, but less severe type of depression) and bipolar disorder (episodes of depression and elation).

The causes of depression

There are many different causes of depression – in fact, it is often a combination of factors, which can include external events, your genetic inheritance, an imbalance of brain chemicals, certain medical conditions, various medications and substance abuse.

The symptoms of depression

The symptoms of depression can include the following: a feeling of persistent sadness and/or anxiety, loss of interest in activities formerly enjoyed, feelings of hopelessness, insomnia, early-morning awakening, oversleeping, weight loss or weight gain, thoughts of death and suicide, suicide attempts, irritability, lack of mental focus, and chronic physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment.

The treatment of depression

Depression is one of the most treatable mental illnesses. Between 80% and 90% of all depressed people respond to treatment and nearly all depressed people who receive treatment see at least some relief from their symptoms.

But feeling that no one understands you or that you are judged for your illness can lead to a worsening of symptoms and non-compliance with medication and treatment, according to SADAG. That is why therapy and support are so important.

Treatment includes a complete evaluation of the patient, and the possible prescription of antidepressant medication, of which there are many different types. A psychiatrist can prescribe these, and help a patient find one that works.

SADAG contact numbers for patient support:

  • To find a Support Group in your area
    0800 21 22 23
  • Suicide Crisis Line
    0800 567 567
  • SADAG Mental Health Line
    011 234 4837

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