Is life getting you down?

2020-02-10 11:49
A Man with a depressed expression.

A Man with a depressed expression. (Getty)

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A third of South Africans affected by mental illness - expert

2014-07-07 11:49

July is Mental Illness Awareness Month and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group is encouraging people to seek help. The three most common conditions are post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety disorders and they can affect anyone.WATCH

Companies are downsizing and people are being retrenched. Unemployment is rife, jobs are getting scarcer by the minute and crime is rampant.

To add to this, the cost of living is getting higher, from staple foods to petrol and school fees, and the list goes on and on.

Many people find the situation is quite depressing. And in this country, as many as one in six people suffer from anxiety, depression or substance-use problems, according to statistics released by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), last year.

Speaking to Weekend Witness about depression, psychologist Kevin Fourie said there is no doubt that there is an increase in depression and anxiety in South Africa.

“It’s not just the economic situation; the unemployment rate is increasing, people are not able to find work. Crime is an added issue and so is the Eskom load shedding. Any number of these factors would act as a trigger for anxiety and depression,” he said.

Depression can differ in children, adolescents and adults.

For adults, it may be that the world looks hopeless, things are bad and not going to get better, and there is a loss of motivation. Also, nothing is nice anymore and nothing seems to interest a depressed person. Fourie added that depressed people often avoid doing things and lack energy.

There is a big difference between depression and sadness, he clarified. Being sad is linked to something specific and the person can be lifted out of it. “Depression is a more profound state than sadness,” he said.

Most depressed people have difficulty sleeping, while some sleep too much. It can also lead to people not eating much, or indulging in comfort food.

The first step in dealing with depression is to acknowledge that you are not well. Some people can control their thoughts and pull themselves out of depression, said Fourie.

There are two routes that people suffering from depression can take: medication and therapy. Ideally they should choose both, he said.

Although suicidal thoughts are common in depression, said Fourie, not every depressed person will end their lives.

Sadag operations director Cassey Chambers said the group has noticed an increase in the number of calls they are receiving. She concurred with Fourie, saying that the tough economic situation is definitely a contributing factor as people are dealing with debt, financial strain, poverty and unemployment.

“All of these can either contribute to making someone feel stress or depressed, or make their mental health even worse,” she said.

Chambers added that depression doesn’t have working hours. If someone has depression it affects their home life, their work life and everything else in their life.

“Depression affects concentrating, multi-tasking, the ability to make decisions, etc.,” she said.

This makes working very difficult.

“We know that many work environments are very stressful, the demands on individuals have increased, the deadlines have become tighter, and people are overwhelmed with stress, anxiety and burnout,” she said. Chambers added that all this can lead to depression and if left untreated or undiagnosed, the person depressed is at risk for suicide.

“We get many calls everyday from people who are at work and who feel depressed, stressed and so overwhelmed by anxiety that they cannot function at work or at home.”

Today, where work has become more stressful, the pressure to perform, the worry of keeping your job, discrimination within the workplace, bullying, working conditions, etc., all contribute, said Chambers.

Help for those with depression

Trying to deal with your pain on your own can only make it worse. Share your feelings with others rather than keeping them to yourself.

Although you may want to be alone, you may feel better if you try to take part in some activities you previously enjoyed with your family and friends.

Set yourself a daily routine and try as much as possible to maintain that routine.

You may not be able to do all your usual activities, so be sure to set a routine that is realistic.

Learn to make small goals that you can reach. Once you have reached them, say positive things to make yourself feel good about your achievement. Do not say bad things about your efforts.

Avoid making big decisions, such as changing jobs or ending a relationship, until you are feeling better.

Change your lifestyle: most people suffering from depression have been found to be perfectionists and drive themselves much too hard.

You may need to learn to lower impossible standards. Try to reduce your workload in order to live your life at a slower pace.

Exercise: Depression often makes you feel tired and without motivation. Despite this, any form of physical exercise, however small, will be good for you.

If some exercise can be taken in the fresh air, this can add to the benefit. Go for a walk or play soccer with your friends.

Diet is important. Under or over eating is a symptom of depression. It is essential to have a well-balanced diet that prevents tiredness and feeling run down.

Relaxation: You may get angry and irritated easily. Relaxation techniques such as running, reading, sewing, playing soccer, watching TV or reading, etc. are all effective ways of removing anxiety and stress when you are depressed.

Read books: Learning about and understanding the nature of the condition and its possible causes will help to remove much of the fear, guilt and misconception which many people have.

Get a broader picture by reading as many books as possible. Give them to relatives and friends to read. This will help them understand the illness.

Avoid habits like smoking, drinking or taking drugs. Alcohol in particular is a depressant and it can make you feel better in the beginning, but afterwards you will feel worse.

Join a support group. A support group is the first place you can go where everyone understands and no one judges. Knowing that someone else truly understands by having “been there” brings a sense of relief.

Remember: Seeking treatment is a sign of strength, and is the first step to feeling better.

Don’t expect too much from yourself right away. Feeling better takes time.

Don’t expect too much. It will take time to get you feeling better.

— Information supplied by SADAG.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  stress and depression

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