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There is a growing realisation that mental disorders take an enormous toll on society. Statistics reveal just how dire South Africa’s mental health problem is: It is estimated that approximately ⅓ of South Africans suffer from some form of mental disorder, according to a SASH (SA Stress and Health) study conducted in 2003/4 and ratified in 2014. The stark reality is that more than 17-million people in South Africa are dealing with anxiety disorders such as agoraphobia, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, mood disorders (a major depressive episode, for example), as well as alcohol and drug use.
Neuropsychiatric disorders are ranked third in their contribution to the overall diseases burden in South Africa according to the National Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2013 - 2020 published by the National Department of Health of SA.
All mental disorders are potentially fatal. Any disorder that has suicide as its potential outcome can be considered to be a terminal illness. We need to work hard to change the narrative around suicide to understand it as the terminal phase of a very serious illness rather than an act of either cowardice or criminality. A failure of the brain is just the same as a failure of the heart or liver or lungs.
Much of the stigma around mental disorders arises from the belief that people can “pull themselves together” to recover from a mental disorder.
In general, once a mental disorder emerges, the best route is both through medical intervention and therapy/counselling
Knowledge, awareness and self-care are all imperative to prevent or minimise the onset of mental disorders and relapses.
Support of the person with the mental illness and the family is desperately needed. Compassion and understanding are the new paradigm in treating mental illness. Take responsibility and seek help when you are feeling depressed, anxious or stressed. Seeking help is a strength and not a weakness – it will help you and your family get through difficult times.
Get the support you need - contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 084 779 4889. Visit my website on www.nadinetherapy.co.za.
Mental health stigma can run so deep that we can second-guess ourselves when it comes to our wellbeing and self-care.
Take, for example, a rough day. You’re sitting at your desk struggling to focus on any one important thing. The anxiety kicks in, and you start to think about all the ways your next task could go wrong, how many mistakes you’ll make. The negative self-talk begins, and your depression hits you like a sack of bricks. You just know you’re about to have a panic attack and you can’t think of a single way to stop it.
Now if this were any other illness that had symptoms preventing you from functioning normally - a migraine or the flu - you wouldn’t think twice about calling it a day and going home to rest. No one could blame you for it - you’re sick, right? You don’t feel well. Go home. Feel better.
But this is not a migraine or the flu, this is mental illness. This is anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, which don’t carry the same severity in our society as other well-known illnesses. When we’re really suffering from mental illness, people tell us to stop exaggerating or to suck it up. So when we contemplate the idea of a mental health day, we beat ourselves up for it. Tell ourselves to man-up and get over it, to stick it out, just like others would tell us.
The problem with this way of thinking is that it is not self-caring at all. We must fight the stigma to not only help others understand that these illnesses we deal with are just as severe as other physical illnesses, but to also help us be kinder to ourselves. Giving ourselves time to rest and being kind to ourselves about what our limits are helps us feel better, just like rest helps us feel better when we have the flu.
If you need some time to re-energise, do it. Your mental wellbeing is just as important as your overall wellbeing, and you must take care of your brain like you take care of the rest of your body. Your good health depends on it.
Some tips for mental health care:
Don't let stigma prevent you from caring for yourself. Get the support you need - contact me on email@example.com or on 084 779 4889. Visit my website on www.nadinetherapy.co.za.
Credit: psychologytoday, take5tosavelives
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