Updated 10 December 2018

Happiness unplugged: South Africa and depression

Depression varies from one individual to the next and some individuals describe it as a black emptiness.


Mental challenges and disorders literally affect thousands of South Africans. Did you know that a large percentage of the South African adult population suffer from some form of mental disorder? This is according to the South African Stress and Health (SASH) study.

Depression is not unlike other chronic illnesses and won’t disappear on its own. When it strikes, you need to face it head on and treat it correctly in order to enjoy life.

A marked change in behaviour

One in five South Africans is said to suffer from mental illness and sadly, even though many can be treated, only a tiny percentage of individuals actually seek help.

In recent years, awareness across all ages has really started makings its way into the news. Gone are the days where it was believed to be something that adults were constantly subjected to. This condition really can and does manifest itself in very young children and teenagers in numerous ways.

The most common symptom is a marked change in the behaviour and thinking patterns, and parents need to keep an eye out for marked changes in their children. It is imperative that parents are always vigilant and act the moment that they suspect their children or teenagers may be showing any signs.

Depression varies from one individual to the next and some individuals describe it as a black emptiness, yet others describe it as a hollow feeling and they often feel hopeless, dispirited and even angry or aggressive – whatever the feelings or symptoms, it is vital to seek help from medical professionals should these feelings overwhelm you or your loved ones.

Everyone experiences mood changes and we cannot always be happy. It is perfectly normal to feel sad or blue at times, but when despair begins to creep in all the time and take over our lives and won’t go away, then this might be something more serious than just having a bad day.

Keep an eye out for these symptoms:

  • Is the individual suffering from sleep deprivation, or is he or she sleeping far too much?
  • Is the sufferer battling to concentrate and is that person finding even the simplest of tasks difficult to execute?
  • Are negative thoughts taking over that person’s life – are they verbalising these negative feelings?
  • Is there a definitive change in the attitudes of the person’s demeanour – is he or she snapping at everyone and being unusually aggressive?
  • Excessive dreaming is a sure-fire sign of depression. Did you know that depressed individuals dream up to three times more than those individuals who are not depressed?
  • Adults that start drinking to drown their sorrows could be depressed.

These are only a handful of the many symptoms that indicate if someone is suffering from depression - there are others that your health professional could point out if you have concerns.

Depression and how it can impact on adult relationships

In all probability, your partner could suffer from depression according to the stats. Many partners are unwilling to admit they have a problem, as it is seen as being a taboo topic. Withholding information might cause harm as well.

Sian Green, a clinical psychologist says there is never a perfect time to tell someone but it’s better to go ahead and do it. "If you'd tell your partner about your heart condition, why shouldn’t you tell them about another serious condition such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder," says Green.

Do you know if your partner suffers from a mental health disorder? Do you know if you are suffering from one? Knowing where you stand in terms of mental disorder diagnosis is vitally important in any relationship. So too is your (or your significant other’s) ability to deal with it. If someone is not capable of being understanding, supportive and helpful to someone with a mental health disorder, his or her presence might cause more stress and harm.

If you suspect your partner has a mental health disorder but it has never been diagnosed and you’re unsure about how to broach the subject, there are various articles from professionals and people with the same experience to help guide you.

The first steps towards overcoming depression:

  • Seek help should you feel you simply cannot shake off those “blue” feelings – there are so many support groups and societies that are able to assist.
  • It is vital to understand and recognise that someone is suffering from depression – this is where education becomes vital and where recognising the tell-tale signs becomes all-important.
  • Nipping depression in the bud is important. As soon as there are visible signs of depression, seek professional help.
  • Talking and sharing is important and will help with those helpless and hopeless feelings.

If you suffer from depression and are on meds:

  • When sufferers of depression are prescribed medicines for their condition these need to be taken diligently the same as one would for any other chronic illness.
  • Taking the right dose of meds on time is vital to ensure the quality of your life is always maintained.
  • Often lack of improvements are as a result of medication not being taken correctly

If you suspect you are suffering from depression contact your family doctor or call your medical aid provider for a registered and approved list of medical professionals to seek assistance.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group – also known as SADAG runs a counselling centre 24/7 and can be contacted at 0800 21 22 23 or 0800 20 50 26.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice.

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