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05 July 2016

Know the facts about depression this Mental Health Awareness Month

July is Mental Health Awareness Month, when people with mental problems are encouraged to find the help and treatment they need.

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It is a frightening fact that around a fifth of all South Africans will experience a depressive disorder at least once during their lifetime. Even scarier is that more than sixty percent will not get the necessary help. 

The biggest danger of anxiety and depression is risk of suicide. The incidence of suicide in South Africa has soared to 23 a day, reports Cassey Chambers, operations director at the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) - and for every

one person who completes a suicide, 10 attempt it.

Read: Stressful events are more likely to cause depression in men


Life is about relationships, about connections and understanding; support and empathy, according to SADAG. Without it, we feel isolated, alone and misunderstood. For people with a mental disorder, people who have lost loved ones or who have

undergone a trauma, this sense of isolation can be as destructive as their diagnosis or the traumatic event, says SADAG.

What is depression?

There is hardly any aspect of your life that is not affected by depressive disorders. Your thoughts, mood and body are affected, as well as the way you sleep, eat and make decisions.

Depression is not just a temporary “wobble” that you can snap out of. It can last for many years, but there is treatment available that can make a big difference to the lives of many people. 

There are three main types of depression:

  • Major depression (disabling episodes of severe depression) 
  • Dysthymia (long-lasting, but less severe type of depression) 
  • Bipolar disorder (episodes of depression and elation)
 

Read: Depressed? Try light therapy

Causes of depression

Depression may be caused by a combination of many factors. These include:

  • External events 
  • Your genetic inheritance 
  • An imbalance of brain chemicals 
  • Certain medical conditions 
  • Various medications  
  • Substance abuse.

The treatment of depression

Depression is a highly treatable condition and the vast majority (between 80% and 90%) of people have a good response and experience relief from their symptoms. 

Treatment includes a complete evaluation of the patient, and the possible prescription of antidepressant medication, of which there are many different types. A psychiatrist can prescribe these, and help a patient find one that works.

SADAG contact numbers for patient support:

  • To find a Support Group in your area
  • 0800 21 22 23
  • Suicide Crisis Line 0800 567 567
  • SADAG Mental Health Line 011 234 4837

Read more: 

The most common mental health disorders in South Africa

How to deal with the crippling effects of low self-esteem

Mentally ill, tied to a tree and starved...

 
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