THE SOUTH AFRICAN
DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
GROUP

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IN THE WORKPLACE

New Research on Depression in the Workplace.

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JOURNAL

Mental Health Matters Journal for Psychiatrists & GP's

MHM September 207x300

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SPEAKING BOOKS

suicide book

Literacy is a luxury that many of us take for granted.  We depend on written communication for information, guidance, and access to heath care information That is why SADAG created SPEAKING BOOKS and revolutionized the way information is delivered to low literacy communities. It's exactly what it sounds like.a book that talks to the reader in his or her local  language, delivering critical information in an interactive, and educational way.

The customizable 16-page book, accompanied by local celebrity audio recordings, ensures that vital health and social messages can be seen, heard, read and understood..

We started with books on Teen Suicide prevention , HIV, AIDS and Depression, Understanding Mental Health and have developed over 30 titles, such as TB, Malaria, Polio, Vaccines for over 30 countries.

depression book

Sandra*, a middle-aged primary school teacher, has suffered sporadically from depression for the last 12 years. It all started in her early twenties when a culmination of horrible circumstances resulted in her developing panic attacks. After a while, she was even afraid to leave her house. Luckily she found a self-help book for phobias and nursed herself back to health. A few years later, however, the birth of her first baby resulted in deep depression. Eventually, she told her husband about her feelings of depression, and he encouraged her to go and visit a local GP. She was given some pills for a short period. The depression abated only to resurface three years later with the birth of her second baby. This was the worst episode she had ever had. She was experiencing unbelievable anxiety and insomnia, and she even remembers going on a family holiday and feeling suicidal. It was about this time that she realised the negative effect her mood was having on her children. This motivated her to go and visit a specialist in Pretoria who gave her medication and an eighteen-month therapy course. “That was the best thing I ever did”, says Sandra in retrospect. “The depression lifted and I felt in control of my life again”.

Sandra is not alone in her fight against depression. In 1990, the World Health Organisation noted that depression affects almost 20% of the female population in the developed world. The mystery that remains to be solved, however, is the significant gender gap that exists between the sexes when it comes to developing depression. Time and time again studies have indicated that depression is between two to three times more common among women than men.

Whilst depression and anxiety are more common among women, alcoholism and severe aggression are more common among men. It could further be argued that females are socialised to respond to stress with psychiatric disturbances that involve Behavioural inhibition whereas men are socialised to respond to “acting out” behaviours and loss of control.

Is it true that our culture is to blame for the millions of women on antidepressants? In our modern day society, many women are also confronted with role overload and role conflict. Women are torn between jobs and families, and are exposed to multidimensional stresses as a result.

Other social activities have suggested that oppression – in the form of physical or sexual abuse, harassment or discrimination – is to blame for the high incidence of depression in women.

From a more biological standpoint, many experts have attributed the incidence of depression among women to the female reproductive cycle including menstruation, pregnancy, the post-pregnancy period and menopause. These events bring fluctuations in mood that could include depression. Researchers have confirmed that hormones have an effect on the brain chemistry that controls emotions and mood.

Women might also be more responsive physiologically than men to changes in exposure to light and dark. Seasonal Affective Disorder – which is also known as “winter depression’ – is three times more common in women than men. This is a kind of major depression that occurs at characteristic times of the year, normally autumn or winter. It is thought that the increase in the secretion of the hormone, melatonin, might be responsible for triggering depressive symptoms in susceptible individuals.

The mystery of the high depression statistics in the female population can not be solved that easily, though. Depression is a complex interaction of psychological, environmental and biological factors, and each depression sufferer has a unique set of life experiences and reactions that eventually lead to the onset of depression.

The good news is that more than 80% of depression patients respond to medication or psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. The best solution is to find a skilled psychologist and psychiatrist that can work in conjunction to ensure that you are receiving the most effective treatment for your illness. “More often than not, patients feel immense relief when they finally receive proper diagnosis from a professional”, says Dr Wynchank.

Another important aspect of recovery is self-help. The Depression and Anxiety Support Group supplies counselling, information and referrals to depression and anxiety sufferers. The Support Group is open Monday to Friday 8am to 8 pm and can be contacted on (011) 783 1474/6. The support group has over 75 active regional support groups operating countrywide.

Sandra now helps to run one such regional support group for depression and anxiety sufferers in the Gauteng area. “Through my experience, I have learnt that one shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help and support”, she says. “I waited too long before I opened up to anyone about how I was feeling.” But, at the same time, Sandra warns depression sufferers not to expect the medication or therapy to solve all their problems in one shot. “You’ve also got to put the effort in to recover, “ Sandra says. “I believe in a holistic approach to recovery – body, mind and spirit are all equally important in my eyes.”

* Not her real name

The author would like to acknowledge information from the ”Depression: What Every Woman Should Know” booklet published by The National Institute of Mental Health, USA.

 

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