'Destigmatising mental health is key to tackling its challenges'

Destigmatisation of mental health issues is important
Destigmatisation of mental health issues is important
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South Africans have come out in their numbers on social media to destigmatise mental health issues by sharing their own challenges. This comes after the tragic death of Nelli Tembe, the fiancee of rapper AKA who allegedly jumped from the 10th floor of a club in Cape Town.  

Lecturer Dr Sithembile Mbete was one of the people who bravely shared her own journey. 

"I am Sithembile Mbete and I take medication for anxiety and depression. I have ADHD which compounds my anxiety. Through a combination of medication and talk therapy I manage my condition. Let's destigmatise," she tweeted.

Author Gasant Abarder also shared his own journey. 

"I'm Gasant Abarder and I take medication for anxiety and depression. And I'm okay with that. Let's destigmatise," he tweeted.  

Jacaranda FM presenter Rozanne McKenzie also said she is battling depression. 

"I'm Rozanne McKenzie and I take medication for depression. One pill a day manages my condition. And I'm okay with that. For the longest time I suffered in silence. No more. Let's destigmatise," she tweeted.  

Cassey Chambers, operations director at  the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), said it is important for people to share about their challenges in order to destigmatise mental health but it must be done responsibly. 

“The last few days have been very heavy and we have been seeing on social media and in the press lots of different stories about tragic mental health issues that have happened and this can be very upsetting and triggering for a lot of people.”

“I think it is important that people share their experiences and their own journeys as a way to encourage others to seek help and speak about mental health. I think there is also a fine line about sharing info that could be triggering or upsetting to the online community and we urge people who may be triggered or are feeling vulnerable to filter how much social media they read,”  Chambers said

Chambers said one in three South Africans will suffer from mental health issues in their lifetime.

“One of the consequences or symptoms of not treating mental health issues such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, trauma or substance abuse, is that it leads to a lot of distress for the person experiencing the symptoms, and it affects every aspect of their life. We also know that undiagnosed and untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide. Mental Health is a real illness that needs real treatment; it doesn’t go away overnight or go away by itself. It needs real help,” she said.

Chambers said they have noted that calls to SADAG crisis lines have doubled since the beginning of lockdown a year ago.

“Before lockdown, SADAG was receiving about 600 calls per day. From the start of lockdown in March 2020, our call volumes have doubled overnight to 1,200 calls per days. We are now handling over 1,400 incoming calls each day from people who are feeling desperate, lonely, helpless and hopeless and look for help. There are so many people dealing with so many problems and don’t know what to do to get help or where to go to seek mental health care,” she said.

Chambers said it is important to note that not all people who die by suicide have a mental illness.

“Not everyone who dies by suicide has a mental illness. Some of the main contributing factors are depression, history of mental illness, financial issues, trauma, grief or loss, substance abuse and relationship issues,” she said.

If you are suffering from thoughts of suicide or need help with your mental health please contact the SADAG suicide crisis line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393. 

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