Posted on 6 November 2013
Your mental health is as important to your overall wellbeing as your physical condition, says clinical psychologist and inspirational speaker Nicky Abdinor at Mediclinic Milnerton, who is passionate about the state of South Africa’s psychological wellness.
In general, what are the greatest mental health issues facing South Africans?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than a third of people in most countries report problems at some time in their life that meet criteria for diagnosis of one or more of the common types of mental disorders. It follows a similar pattern here. In an age where we feel pressure to succeed and the pace of life keeps accelerating, stress, anxiety and depression are becoming more common (and more easily identified).
We always hear about dental health and heart health. Is there any way we can take care of our mental health in our daily lives?
Our mind and body are so interlinked, we can’t afford to neglect our mental health. However, it’s common practice in our busy, modern lives to neglect our mental health. When we are run-down and stressed, how often do we take time out to recover? If we were to have a physical health problem (for example, appendicitis) we’d never tell the casualty doctor that we can’t have surgery that day because we have a big deadline at work! We need to take our mental health just as seriously.
Learn to live mindfully (in the present moment) by taking in your environment and experiences. We are multitasking and overstimulated by the demands of being productive and accessible all of the time. Remember when we could only be reached by landlines? We need to learn to switch off, set boundaries and focus each day on improving the quality of our lives through positive relationships and taking time out when needed.
Are there certain stages in life – situations, or certain life roles – that may make people more susceptible to depression?
A major life stressor (for example divorce, retrenchment, the death of a loved one or relocating) can bring about reactive symptoms of depression and anxiety. And if you have a history of a mental illness (personal or family history) that may make you more vulnerable to developing clinical depression and/or an anxiety disorder.
Is there anything I can do, as a parent, to raise an emotionally resilient child?
The greatest gift that a parent can give a child is to believe in them. Children who have a parent, role model or guardian that supports, encourages and positively reinforces them can grow up to be more resillient. It is important for parents to encourage their kids to express their emotions (whether positive or negative), have consistency and set boundaries to help them feel more secure.
If I suspect a family member is suffering from depression, what should I do?
A person showing signs of depression should seek professional help for an assessment and treatment plan. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) can be contacted for a referral to a registered psychologist in your area on 011 262 6396. They also have an emergency crisis line 0800 567 567 (or SMS 31393).
What should I look for in a therapist?
You need to know that each therapist will have a different personality and therapy style, and not everyone will connect with the same therapist. When looking for a psychologist, think about who you’d be most comfortable speaking to: a male or a female, what age group? If you’ve done research on a theoretical approach (for example, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or CBT), find out which therapists use that type of therapy. It is always best to have a personal recommendation, perhaps from your GP or a friend. Not every therapist specialises in all areas, so don’t be afraid to find out if the particular problem you are dealing with is within their area of interest. A good therapist will know when to refer you to a particular person if it is not within their scope of practice.
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