Don’t avoid the problem

2019-10-30 06:00
Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl

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People with mental health conditions are often faced with challenges such as trivialisation of the condition and a lack of support of family and society.

According to Dr Ntswaki Setlaba, a consultant psychiatrist at the Pelonomi Tertiary Hospital, mental health conditions can be divided into two major groups, the common mental health disorders (depression, anxiety disorders, etc.) and the serious mental health disorders (bipolar and related disorders, psychotic disorders, etc.).

Setlaba said: “We need to make talking about mental conditions normal. It should not be a taboo. Ask people about their conditions or admissions to hospital, it is not like the person will have a breakdown if you ask them how their admission was.”

Setlaba said the conception that asking people experiencing mental health problems should be avoided, made them depressed.

“A lot of the times they also do not know what is causing their depression and that make them feel even guiltier about the condition.”

Setlaba encourages friends and family to accompany individuals to consultation as they can get information from clinicians to help them understand the condition better.

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl, a general practitioner and board member for the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), was diagnosed with depression. She said ignorant statements and stigma around mental health make it difficult for people experiencing mental health to share what they are going through.

Van Zyl said it was difficult when people reminded her of what she had achieved in life.

“Statements like, you have two beautiful children or you are a successful medical doctor, made me feel guilty for being depressed,” said Van Zyl.

Van Zyl said awareness and education about mental health is fundamental.

“We are fortunate there is a wealth of information on mental health conditions. Learning as much as possible will go a long way if we want to support individuals with mental health conditions,” said Van Zyl.

Both Setlaba and van Zyl said the best thing to do is to listen and be supportive of people with mental conditions and respect their wishes as we would with any other person.

To assist in destigmatising mental illness in South Africa, Cipla in colla­boration with SADAG launched a 24-hour toll-free mental health helpline (080-045-6789) managed by trained counsellors. Cipla also has WhatsApp counselling from 09:00 to 15:00 on 076-882-2775. The SADAG suicide crisis helpline can be reached on 080-056-7567.

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