Men­tal ill­ness in SA shock

De­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and other ail­ments af­fect a third of pop­u­la­tion

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - STAFF RE­PORTER

ASTAGGERING onethird of South Africans suf­fer from one form of men­tal ill­ness, in­clud­ing de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

This is ac­cord­ing to re­search con­ducted by the Univer­sity of Cape Town, which also re­vealed that 75% of these suf­fer­ers do not get the ap­pro­pri­ate help.

The re­search, con­ducted by the depart­ment of psy­chi­a­try, stressed that, if un­treated, men­tal health is­sues can cause dire con­se­quences.

Dr Do­minique Stott, ex­ec­u­tive: med­i­cal stan­dards and ser­vices, said this in­cludes the work­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

“Men­tal health is­sues cre­ate prob­lems for suf­fer­ers, es­pe­cially when they im­pact their abil­ity to work and earn an in­come,” he said.

He ex­plained that there were sev­eral rea­sons why men­tal health suf­fer­ers didn’t re­ceive the ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment. Chief among them was the per­ceived stigma as­so­ci­ated with men­tal ill­ness, the lack of fa­cil­i­ties and the cost of treat­ment.

“While the pa­tient may re­quire med­i­ca­tion, hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion and psy­chother­apy in or­der to re­turn to work, this is not al­ways avail­able to those who need it most out­side pri­vate health­care sec­tors,” he said.

He added that there were many symp­toms to look out for in re­gard to those who suf­fer from men­tal health.

Feel­ing iso­lated and alone was among them.

“At this point, if an in­di­vid­ual is show­ing ma­jor be­havioural changes which are no­ticed by friends or fam­ily mem­bers, there should be rea­sons for con­cern, es­pe­cially if there is a his­tory of men­tal ill­ness in the fam­ily,” said Stott.

Other be­havioural changes which could be a warn­ing are in­con­sis­tent sleep rou­tines, such as sleep­ing too much or too lit­tle.

She added that thoughts about death or dy­ing, de­clin­ing work or school per­for­mance, ob­vi­ous sub­stance abuse or avoid­ing so­cial con­tact were also symp­toms.

“While a men­tal ill­ness must be prop­erly di­ag­nosed by a health­care pro­fes­sional, recog­nis­ing the first signs can en­able the suf­ferer to get the de­sired help early.”

De­spite the po­ten­tial sever­ity of men­tal health con­di­tions, Stott said there was help avail­able for suf­fer­ers.

She said the first step was to ac­knowl­edge that there is a prob­lem.

“When a pa­tient does not ac­knowl­edge that they have a prob­lem or feels as though noth­ing will help them, then a fam­ily mem­ber or friend should seek help and ad­vice on their be­half, with a med­i­cal pro­fes­sional sooner rather than later,” she added.

“Any pa­tient who has lost touch with re­al­ity will def­i­nitely re­quire ur­gent in­put from a spe­cial­ist.”

She stressed that it was vi­tal for those who think they might have a prob­lem, or even their loved ones who no­ticed it, to get help.

“Any po­ten­tial suf­ferer who men­tions, even ca­su­ally, that they have noth­ing worth liv­ing for should be taken to an emer­gency room im­me­di­ately to rule out the risk of sui­cide,” Stott said.

Work-hard­en­ing pro­grammes are ben­e­fi­cial for peo­ple at the right time as part of their re­cov­ery, she said.

“This form of ther­apy is car­ried out by an oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist who as­sists peo­ple in re­cov­er­ing grad­u­ally, to rein­te­grate back into the work­place.”

Stott said al­though it might be dif­fi­cult, it was im­por­tant to push through.

“It can be daunt­ing to have to face a work en­vi­ron­ment af­ter weeks away from work, and this form of ther­apy, in ad­di­tion to the in­put from the em­ployer if re­quired, will help to en­sure the re­turn to work is suc­cess­ful.”

Stott added that suf­fer­ers shouldn’t think that they won’t be able to re­turn to work.

“Most pa­tients with men­tal health dis­or­ders, most com­monly de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety, will be able to re­turn to work,” she said.

“From the out­set, this must be en­cour­aged to en­sure the best even­tual out­come.”

She added that there was re­search which proved that stay­ing off work for ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time past a nor­mal re­cov­ery pe­riod has no added ben­e­fit for the pa­tient.

“Re­search shows that re­turn­ing to work, even in a lim­ited ca­pac­ity ini­tially, will help with the re­cov­ery.

“The longer one stays off work, the more dif­fi­cult it is to ei­ther find new work or re­turn to the orig­i­nal em­ploy­ment.”

75% of suf­fer­ers don’t get the ap­pro­pri­ate help, re­search shows

SEEK HELP: Any po­ten­tial suf­ferer of men­tal ill­ness should be taken to the emer­gency room to get treat­ment, ex­perts ad­vise.

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