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GRAZIA FEATURES THE I KILL ER A reported 23 South Africans commit suicide every day as a result of depression, yet it's a problem that's often swept under the rug. Grazia looks at how to help those in your life who suffer from this condition WHEN ROBIN WILLIAMS took his own life earlier this year, many people questioned why he didn't just ask for help, or why he couldn't see that he had so much to live for. But for sufferers of depression, it's about a lot more than simply telling themselves to "cheer up". Counselling psychologist Tamara ZaneIla (Facilitate.co.za) helps shed some light on depression, how to deal with it and how to help someone close to you who may be suffering from it. WHAT IS DEPRESSION? We're all bound to experience periods of sadness, grief or low moods when we go through a difficult time in our lives — this is part of the human condition. However, when we experience these dips, we're still able to function and we're aware that things will improve if we make certain changes in our lives. Depression, on the other hand, occurs when this low mood lingers for prolonged peroids of time and does not improve, causing our day-to-day functioning to be adversely affected. WARNING SIGNS When trying to ascertain whether someone you know may be suffering from depression, it's best to assess them overall. Some of the symptoms to look out for include difficulty concentrating; remembering details and making decisions; fatigue and decreased energy; feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness; insomnia; early-morning wakefulness or excessive sleeping; irritability, restlessness, loss of interest in activities or hobbies once found pleasurable; persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings; recurring thoughts of suicide, and suicide attempts. If you know someone who has these symptoms, try to be there for them as much as possible without over-burdening yourself. Don't be afraid to message them, meet for coffee or call to let them know that you care, and that you are there for them. If you are, be ready to listen. Encourage and support them to visit their GP or a psychiatrist or psychologist for professional help, but try to accept them the way they are without judgement. Remember that patience and understanding will go a long way, even if it doesn't feel like you're helping. THE FESTIVE SEASON Many people believe that the feelings of loneliness, isolation, helplessness and hopelessness are amplified during the holiday season, and this may lead to more suicides. Kate*, a 34-year-old Joburg-based trader who has been diagnosed as a manic-depressive — meaning extreme highs are followed by crushing lows — says that the festive season is always the hardest for her. "Most of my family live in London, so I usually end up spending Christmas alone," she tells us. "Once, I came close to committing suicide on Christmas Eve — I bought a rope and had every intention of using it. Luckily GRAZIA FEATURES my sister called to say how much she missed me. I realised then that I needed help, that I wasn't actually alone. It's been a battle ever since, but now I'm on the right meds to help control my condition. These days I spend my holidays with people who love me, so I don't get those feelings of abandonment." The festive season should be a time of family and friendship, so reach out to anyone you think may be lonely, and help ease their burden. NEGATIVE STIGMA A lot of depressives go untreated because they're ashamed of their condition as a result of the stigma attached to mental-health problems. Globally, one in four people will be diagnosed with a mental-health problem — which includes depression — in their lifetime. People who suffer from this condition need to know that they are not alone and they shouldn't feel ashamed. TREATMENT Depression is a treatable disorder. Many people don't need medication to treat it and experience a lot of success with psychotherapy, in particular cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). However, research has shown that certain types of depression, such as bipolar disorder, are most effectively treated with medication in combination with CBT. GETTING HELP Coping with depression is difficult for the person who is depressed, as well as for their family and friends, but the support and involvement of loved ones can make all the difference when it comes to encouraging someone to stick with their treatment. Encourage and support your loved one to get professional help, but try not to be judgemental. Patience and understanding do help, even if it doesn't feel like you're actually doing anything. If you or someone you know might be depressed, contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) on 011 234 4837 or visit Sadag.org 44 Well-known South Africans share their stories of depression TV presenter Sade Giliberti I suffer from depression. It took me a long time to come to terms with it, but I wanted to overcome my depression and not let it be something that controlled me. When I was 24, I started seeing a psychologist, as I wasn't dealing with any of the issues that depressed me. I realised that talking about it helped more than numbing it with meds did. A person suffering from depression won't often admit to it, but if you notice the signs in someone, try to speak to them. If you think that you suffer from depression, there's nothing to be ashamed of. Seek help - so many people out there really do understand what you're going through. Morning Live host Leanne Manas I suffered from anxiety/ panic disorder, which is a terrible thing to experience. I went to see my doctor, who put me on antidepressants. They took a while to kick in, which is the most frustrating part. I knew, however, that they would eventually start to work and that I would start feeling better. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, get help! You can't and don't have to go through it alone. The stigma around taking antidepressants or any other medication to assist with a mental illness is nonsense. If you have a common cold, you medicate yourself- why not help yourself when you have a mental issue? Actress Lillian Dube When I suffered from depression, it felt like 1 I was trapped in this ---- dark bottomless pit. ,-L------ It was a desperate situation, and I even attempted suicide. The most painful ....„...0_ .. thing was that I didn't 1 ., even know what I was rsuffering from. I finally overcame it when I played the role of a depressed nursing sister in Soul City - for me it was cathartic. Fortunately, these days - and because of SADAG - there is help for people who suffer from depression. Society has a better understanding of the symptoms and signs that come with it. I urge everyone to constantly be aware of the signs - like if loved ones, or yourself, suddenly lose interest in things that they enjoyed doing in the past.