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Two years of Covid: South Africans are overwhelmed, anxious, depressed and they’re looking for help


The South African Society of Psychiatrists is calling mental health the biggest threat.

File picture: Pexels/Alex Green

IT HAS been two years since the pandemic started and South Africans are overwhelmed, anxious, depressed and they’re looking for help.

Last year, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) saw a significant increase of more than 1,400 daily calls from people seeking help. And it’s no surprise that the South African Society of Psychiatrists is calling mental health the biggest threat in 2022.

Statistics released in May 2019 by the World Health Organization revealed that, globally, an estimated 264 million people suffered from depression, which is one of the leading causes of disability.

Most of those suffering from depression also suffered from symptoms of anxiety, the report also showed.

Some of the people with depression are diagnosed while others hide their condition because of fear of being ostracised by the community and the stigma that society has attached to it.

A 2009 South African Stress and Health (SASH) study concluded that one in 10 adults would experience depression. Fast forward 11 years, with record-high unemployment and the uncertainty, plus the loss and grief linked to the pandemic, and this number has increased substantially.

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When it comes to depression, Sadag says depression is very damaging when left untreated, so don’t wait and hope that worrisome symptoms will go away.

“If you’re struggling with depression, its important to take action, and seek the help you need, the same way you would see a doctor for a sore throat or a sprained ankle,” said Dr Eugene Allers, a prominent psychiatrist.

Here are some tips Allers gives to help.

Reach out: Isolation makes depression worse. Get in touch with loved ones who make you feel safe and talk to them. Sometimes you need someone to listen and not judge what you’re going through.

Get active: Exercise may be the last thing you feel like, but being active can help you feel better. A run, walk around the block or a hike can ease your depression and lift your energy.

Set easy and realistic goals: Break tasks down, so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. The adage, “there is only one way to eat an elephant, one bite at a time” is true, so instead of cleaning the house, consider taking out the garbage. Once that’s done, see how you feel before taking on the next task.

Enjoy a nutritious diet: Certain foods like refined carbs, sugar, caffeine, or alcohol can affect your mood, and not in a good way. Add mood-enhancing nutrients such as vegetables, lean meats, and Omega-3 fatty acids to your diet for a boost of energy, and to improve your overall wellbeing.

Reward yourself: Recognise and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. It will be easier to push aside negative talk and feelings when you remember how far you’ve come.

Get treatment: With the right treatment and support, #BreakingDepression is possible. Depression can be treated, seek professional help. Give yourself time to heal and soon you too will look back on your experiences and how they made you the person you are.

How to seek professional help:

South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag):

Sadag Mental Health Line 011 234 4837

Online Toolkit on the Sadag website (www.sadag.org) with free resources, online videos, reliable resources, coping skills, online tools and info on social distancing, self-isolation, etc.

Chat online with a counsellor 7 days a week from 9am to 4pm via the Cipla WhatsApp Chat Line 076 882 2775.

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