GQ (South Africa)


Now more than ever is the time to prioritise your mental health. Here’s how to spot the cues


YOUR PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL WELLBEING may have been a ected by challenges presented by Covid-19 and because we all react to stress di erently, it’s not always easy to spot the signs of depression.

Deputy Director of the SA Federation of Mental Health

Leon de Beer notes that men and women may experience mental health problems di erently, ‘for example, depression may manifest in men through symptoms that aren’t usually associated with depression: sadness, low mood, loss of energy.

‘In men, depression may lead to anger, irritation, substance abuse and other types of behaviours they may not construe as being indicative of depression.’ He further cautions that this may lead to depression being undiagnose­d and, thus, untreated, leading to – in extreme cases – higher levels of suicide in men. Men may also be less inclined to seek help to avoid being seen as weak.

If you’re wondering about the importance of prioritisi­ng your mental health, he explains that there can be no health and wellbeing without optimal mental health. ‘It needs to be prioritise­d by everyone, every day, as it improves resilience levels and may help you cope better with adversity,’ he says.

Here, De Beer o ers his perspectiv­e.

GQ: What are the benefits of investing in your mental health?

Leon de Beer: is quote from the Canadian Mental Health Associatio­n (2020) sums it up: ‘Just as physical tness helps our bodies to stay strong, mental

tness helps us to achieve and sustain a state of optimal mental health.’ When we’re mentally healthy, we enjoy our life and environmen­t, and the people in it. We can be creative, learn, try new things and take risks. We’re better able to cope with di cult times in our personal and profession­al lives. We feel the sadness and anger that comes with the death of a loved one, a job loss or relationsh­ip problems and other trying events, but in time, we can get on with and enjoy our lives anew.

Nurturing our mental health can also help us combat or prevent mental health problems sometimes associated with a chronic physical illness. In some cases, it can prevent the onset or relapse of a physical or mental illness. Managing stress well can have a positive impact on heart disease, as an example.

GQ: Please list practical ways to improve your mental health?


• Connect with other people

• Stay positive (or, at least, try to)

• Make time for physical activity

• Try to help others

• Get enough sleep

• Find happiness, joy and satisfacti­on in your life

• Eat a healthy diet

• Connect with what gives you meaning in life

• Try to cope with hard times more e ectively

• Seek profession­al help if you need it

GQ: What are some types of behaviours that may affect mental health negatively?

LD: ese may include smoking, drinking alcohol, gambling »

and drug misuse, along with poor

nancial skills leading you into debt (NHS, 2020). Other issues may include:

• Negative perfection­ism – for example, setting yourself goals beyond your reach

• Poor posture – sitting up straight could reduce symptoms of depression and may improve self-esteem and mood

• Guilt

• Lack of exercise

• A failure mindset – succumbing to a negative inner voice

• Overuse of social media and smartphone­s may lead to depression and anxiety

• Regret

• Codependen­cy

• Poor sleeping habits

(Careers in Psychology, 2020)

GQ: What if you feel you can’t do it on your own?

LD: Connect Health and Community (2020) lists the following four useful ways in which men can improve their mental health:

• Getting outside and being active

• Understand­ing that it’s OK to seek help

• Taking control of your nances, addressing debt issues

• Prioritisi­ng social connection­s

GQ: Are online support groups available if you don’t feel comfortabl­e asking for help?

LD: e South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) o ers support groups nationally.

GQ: What’s your advice to someone living with depression, anxiety, or both, as we navigate uncertain times?

LD: Seek profession­al help and know that you’re not alone. Last year was di cult for everyone, so there’s no shame in admitting that and reaching out for help. However, ensure you get support from quali ed profession­als and avoid self-diagnosing through, for example, using the internet, which may lead you to unreliable sources of informatio­n.

If you require assistance, you can contact our o ces at, and we’ll help you get the support you need.


Looking a er your mental health is vital for your psyche, emotional and physical health, and through all the hardships you encounter in your daily life, you should know that it’s an illness you can overcome. I’ve learnt from experience that our tendency as humans is to avoid problems, but the emotional su ering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness.

Over the past three years, I’ve lost my mother, brother and, more recently, my sister during the pandemic. I also lost my job.

ese events caused grief and nancial strain, which made me feel isolated and depressed. Fortunatel­y, through the support I received from close friends and family, and teachings and daily practices to keep my mental health in check, I could regain my con dence and the motivation to keep going. I overcame a trying situation through daily practices such as positive a rmations that helped me avoid self-sabotaging thoughts, binaural beats for meditation, and working out, which was not only great for my body but also for my mind.

I’ve been listening to audiobooks, mostly on positive thinking and wealth. So far,

I’ve seen the positive impact these practices have had on my behaviour, which gives me more reason to continue as I feel much stronger than before. I know I can master anything through sweat, hard work and determinat­ion.

e future’s looking bright because I’m prepared to face similar situations.

Strive for happiness and keep it front-and-centre of your life. To anyone who’s going through a di cult time and is afraid to speak out, I’d encourage you to talk to someone and get help from trained profession­als and organisati­ons dedicated to mental health issues.

We all need to inculcate in ourselves and in our children the necessity for su ering and its value, the need to face problems head-on and to experience the resulting pain. e tools and techniques I used helped me to experience the pain of problems, so that I could work through them and solve them successful­ly, learning and growing in the process.

To all who’re ready and have gathered the strength to seek help, be aware that organisati­ons and profession­als are there to help those su ering from mental illnesses, amongst whom is the #Buwadepres­sionawaren­ess Campaign (BUWA_CAMPAIGN onfacebook, Instagram and Twitter).


I’m deeply passionate about wine, so the lockdown has been hard for me, what with not having access to the things I enjoy. Adjusting to my new normal wasn’t easy, but my family kept me sane. Using the time to study also helped.

I discovered it was the perfect time to pay attention to the elements of my profession that needed improvemen­t.

Praying also helped; having that special time with God strengthen­ed my relationsh­ip with Him, and I appreciate­d being able to connect with Him, without interrupti­ons.

If there’s one thing our youths have learnt, it’s to be more responsibl­e and invest in our tomorrow. Beyond the challenges presented by the pandemic, I can only hope that we’ll come out of it better than we were before.

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