Focus on Mental Health Awareness during July

This month the focus is on mental health awareness and in particular on depression.
Depression is one the most ­treata­ble mental illnesses. Between 80% and 90% of people respond to treatment and nearly all depressed people who receive treatment see at least some relief from their symptoms.

What is Depressive Disorder? Clinical Depression affects mood, mind, body and behaviour. Research has shown that 5% to 6% of the pop­u­lation will have a depressive disorder during the course of their lives and nearly two thirds do not get the help they need.

Treatment can alleviate the symptom in over 80% of cases. Yet, because it goes unrecognized, depres­sion continues to cause unnecessary suffering.

A depressive disorder is a whole-body illness, involving your body, mood and thoughts. It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself and the way you think about things. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with depression cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months or years.

Appropriate treatment can help most people who suffer from depression. Not everyone who is depressed ­experiences every symptom. Some people experience a few symptoms while others experience a wider spectrum of symptoms. Severity of symptoms varies with individuals.
Symptoms of depression include:
1. A persistent sad/anxious/empty mood.
2. Feelings of hopelessness/pessimism.
3. Feelings of guilt/worthlessness/self reproach.
4. Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex.
5. Insomnia, early-morning awakening or oversleeping.
6. Changes in appetite/weightloss or overeating/weight gain.
7. Decreased energy or feeling of being slowed-down.
8. Increased use of alcohol and drugs.
9. Thoughts of death or suicide/ suicide attempts.
10. Restlessness/irratability/hostility.
11. Difficulty concentrating/remembering/making decisions.
12. Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain.
13. Deterioration of social relationships.

Mental illness
Mental illness is caused through a few possibilities, namely genetic factors, environmental factors or chemical imbalances.

It can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, intelligence, race, social class, religious grouping or culture.

Early signs of mental illness include:
1. Mood changes – patient appears withdrawn, silent, listless, depressed, suspicious or dejected without any apparent reason. Sometimes sudden anger erupts. Aggressive behaviour or even extreme elation.
2. Changes in work performance.
3. Hearing voices, seeing imaginary phenomina and being anxious about imaginary problems.
4. Insomnia, headaches, fluctuation of weight and other physical complaints where there is no physical evidence of a problem.
5. Loss of interest in things such as personal grooming, work, studies and/or family relationships.
What can you do to help?
• Acknowledge the person’s skills and abilities.
• Be accepting, understanding and supportive.
• Get the correct facts; read about and question mental health professionals, such as social workers, psychiatrists and nurses.
• Information supplied by Claudel Draai of the Western Cape Department of Health and Cape Mental Health.

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