Ask the ex­pert #Men­tal­health­mat­ters


Speak­ing to a psy­chol­o­gist for the first time can be in­tim­i­dat­ing, so we did it for you! In hon­our of Men­tal Health Aware­ness Month, we asked an ex­pert com­mon ques­tions about men­tal health. Asha Dul­labh is a Clin­i­cal Psy­chol­o­gist and Di­rec­tor of Ther­a­pys­mart, a men­tal health­care ser­vice with branches in both Makhanda (for­merly Gra­ham­stown) and Cape Town.

“It should not be con­sid­ered as a char­ac­ter weak­ness, but rather a com­bi­na­tion of symp­toms of com­plex bi­o­log­i­cal , psy­cho­log­i­cal and so­ci­o­log­i­cal im­bal­ances. All of these as­pects re­quire at­ten­tion and heal­ing. Peo­ple should be treated with the same re­spect, com­pas­sion and em­pa­thy as some­one ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a phys­i­cal ill­ness,” says Dul­labh. of peo­ple liv­ing with HIV who also present with a men­tal con­di­tion, and in­creased crime rates, which re­sult in con­di­tions such as post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der (PTSD).”

Q. What about stigma? Where does it come from and how can we fight it?

We need to raise aware­ness to dis­man­tle the stigma that sur­rounds and en­cap­su­lates men­tal con­di­tions. Of­ten the stigma is worse than the ac­tual dis­ease. How does the stigma man­i­fest? Stigma is as­so­ci­ated with be­ing “fear based”. Peo­ple fear be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against, judged and re­jected by fam­ily, friends and col­leagues should they ad­mit to hav­ing a men­tal con­di­tion. With men­tal ill­ness there is of­ten an ab­sence of phys­i­cal symp­toms re­sult­ing in the per­cep­tion from some that men­tal ill­ness is ‘not real’, a fig­ment of the imag­i­na­tion.

Rein­te­gra­tion af­ter dis­clo­sure of one’s con­di­tion is also im­por­tant as many fear that they go­ing to be ridiculed, judged, or re­jec­tion of­ten lead­ing to feel­ings of shame, anger, frus­tra­tion and dis­ap­point­ment. It low­ers one’s self es­teem, self-con­cept and au­ton­omy.

Q. What ad­vice can you of­fer for those who are, or who know some­one go­ing through a dif­fi­cult time?

The first step to help­ing pa­tients and loved ones is to get them to talk about it. There are still so many who feel alone, scared and mis­un­der­stood. In­creased aware­ness and a pol­icy of ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic about men­tal health is­sues will en­cour­age more peo­ple to share their di­ag­noses and seek help. Seek the best pro­fes­sional help with the right fit. Of­fer on­go­ing sup­port, ac­cep­tance and un­der­stand­ing that men­tal ill­ness de­serves with the same com­pas­sion.

Q. What are some things peo­ple can do at homes to com­bat feel­ings of anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion?

Pay more at­ten­tion to good sleep. Mod­ern re­search sug­gests that poor sleep is the most de­struc­tive to the mind and body as its neg­a­tive ef­fects trig­ger an im­bal­ance. Stress and de­pres­sion man­i­fests in poor sleep which man­i­fests in the body and is the pre­cur­sor to most phys­i­cal dis­ease.

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