The men­tally ill can find pro­fes­sional help and so­lace on Let’s Talk por­tal

The Sunday Independent - - HEALTH -

MEN­TAL ill­ness is ar­guably one of the most stig­ma­tised con­di­tions and those with psy­chi­atric dis­or­ders are of­ten ex­cluded and dis­crim­i­nated against.

Peo­ple speak in hushed voices about it and those af­fected by men­tal ill­ness may end up be­ing prej­u­diced and iso­lated in so­cial cir­cles and work­places.

But a new on­line por­tal called Let’s Talk aims to break the stigma sur­round­ing men­tal ill­ness and to make treat­ment more ac­ces­si­ble to psy­chi­atric pa­tients around the coun­try.

Launched by generic phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany Pharma Dy­nam­ics this month to co­in­cide with Men­tal Health Aware­ness Month, the Let’s Talk por­tal en­cour­ages in­di­vid­u­als to open up and share their strug­gles with men­tal ill­ness in a safe space, with trained psy­chi­a­trists of­fer­ing sup­port and en­cour­ag­ing suf­fer­ers to take ac­tive steps to­wards their re­cov­ery.

The por­tal of­fers psy­chother­apy in the form of videos and we­bi­nars, goal-set­ting ad­vice and al­ter­na­tive ther­apy op­tions such as nutri­tion and ex­er­cise.

Shouqat Mug­jenker, men­tal health port­fo­lio man­ager for Pharma Dy­nam­ics, says there is a dire need for dig­i­tal in­ter­ven­tions in this space as the coun­try’s men­tal health-care sys­tem is fall­ing short.

“In many cul­tures, men­tal ill­ness re­mains a taboo sub­ject and the shame associated with these con­di­tions of­ten de­rails any at­tempt to seek help.

“Even when peo­ple reach out, fam­ily or friends may re­spond with dis­in­ter­est or re­jec­tion due to lack of un­der­stand­ing. Our plat­form plays a crit­i­cal role in con­nect­ing suf­fer­ers with a com­mu­nity of med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als, which in­cludes psy­chi­a­trists, psy­chol­o­gists and nu­tri­tion­ists, along with fel­low pa­tients whom they can re­late to and draw strength from,” says Mug­jenker.

The SA De­pres­sion and Anx­i­ety Group (Sadag) es­ti­mates that one in five peo­ple will suf­fer from men­tal ill­ness in their lives.

Yo-TV child star and pre­sen­ter Sade Gilib­erti is one of the many celebri­ties who have been vo­cal about their men­tal health bat­tles. On the por­tal, as part of help­ing oth­ers speak out, she shares her jour­ney of de­pres­sion. “Ev­ery­thing around me al­ways seems so dark… No one else around me feels sad­ness like I do. I can’t ex­press this feel­ing with any­body else be­cause they just won’t un­der­stand. These thoughts are nor­mal to peo­ple who suf­fer from de­pres­sion.”

She moved to the UK a few years ago and has been do­ing pho­tog­ra­phy, act­ing and voiceovers. She has also been part of a Lon­don-based web se­ries rais­ing aware­ness of LGBTI (les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans­sex­ual and in­ter­sex) is­sues.

Gilib­erti also spoke of her life as a child with de­pres­sion and how dif­fi­cult it was to un­der­stand what was go­ing on, to the point that she started to harm her­self.

“I took a but­ter knife to harm my wrist. I must have been about seven or eight years old… it was around that time when I first had sui­ci­dal thoughts,” she said.

Mug­jenker says psy­chi­atric pa­tients tend to focus only on one form of treat­ment, but some­times a com­bi­na­tion of ther­a­pies is what is needed in ad­di­tion to liv­ing a healthy life.

“The plat­form de­mands hon­esty. We want peo­ple to share from the heart. No change can come about if peo­ple hide be­hind masks,” Mug­jenker adds.

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