Print

To view the larger PDF version - click here

beating the holiday blues1

beating the holiday blues2

beating the holiday blues3

EDUCATION Beating the holiday blues It's that time of the year when people generally cannot wait to pack their bags and take to the road to go on holiday or to gather with family and friends to enjoy the festive season. But for many people, this traditional time of joy and celebration is one of intense loneliness, dark depression and the possibility of a relapse into old and dangerous habits such as alcohol and substance abuse, making it all the more difficult to cope Depression statistics most recently gathered in the South African Stress and Health Study, suggest that depression is more prevalent in females and for people with lower education levels The festive season idealises all of society's warmest emotions. Through advertisements and marketing, the ideal family, ideal relationships, and ideal holidays are presented to us constantly. However, in reality, many of us may not have a sense of belonging with our families, may have difficult relationships, lost close family members, be experiencing financial strain white trying to manage the expectation of buying gifts or going on holiday. Most often, we are quite burnt out, tired and stressed by the end of the year," explains Tamryn Coats, counselling psychologist and researcher at Akeso Specialised Psychiatric Clinics. A combination of one or more of these factors may result in people feelingvery isolated during the festive season, feeling that they don't 'fit in' with the 'festive cheer' and consequently feeling very lonely and depressed, she points out. SYMPTOMS Indicative of end-of-the-year blues, are symptoms like withdrawing from social activities, for example not wanting to attend end-of-year functions or socials with friends; feeling a greater sense of frustration, anger or irritability; and a feeling of hopelessness or despair, especially regarding the future. More tett-tate signs are a difficulty in concentrating, feelings of worthlessness, and a constant sense of sadness where you don't really understand why you feet that way, and even thoughts of death and suicide. Individuals may also feet very emotional, often tearful; experience changes in steep patterns (often steeping more and still feeling tired, but sometimes also steeping less, or struggling to fall asleep), as well as change in eating habits (either over-eating or having a tack of appetite). Often individuals also have intense feelings of anger about small and insignificant events such as traffic or shopping queues, says Coats. WHO IS AT RISK, AND THE RISK FACTORS TRIGGERING DEPRESSION, SUBSTANCE ABUSE, AND LONELINESS? "People who have lost loved ones may feet especially vulnerable during this time of year as gatherings of family and friends happen frequently and may increase the feelings Continued on next page... Pharmacy Magazine NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015 I 29 EDUCATION of losing the lost loved one. This does not just refer to people who have passed away, it can also refer to parents whose children have moved away and who they won't be able to visit; relationship break-ups or recently ended relationships; individuals who have to work through the festive season and may feet resentful or lonely in an office where they are relatively atone." LINKS TO SUICIDE Coats says depression is a significant risk factor for suicide. "Often people feet that they do not have a support system or someone who understands how they feet. Their loneliness is therefore amplified. This, combined with a tack of hope in the future, often results in people feeling that there is no reason to continue living feeling this way, which seems to them as if it is never-ending and can therefore result in these people engaging in self-harm. Furthermore, if someone is consuming alcohol or other substances, this may increase feelings of loneliness or decrease inhibitions and again result in risky or self-harm behaviour." TREATMENT Medication and treatment (very specific to each person) may also bring relief. However, often a combination of medication and psychotherapy works best where individuals talk to a psychologist once a week, more if needed, about their feelings and what coping mechanisms/skills they can employ to help them cope during times of difficulty, while a psychiatrist will cater to their particular needs in these instances by prescribing medication. INSTITUTIONS Institutions such as Akeso Specialised Psychiatric Clinics, the South African Depression & Anxiety Group (SADAG), as well as several churches host support groups to assist people suffering from loneliness and depression during this time of the year. There is also Akeso's emergency psychiatric intervention unit (PIU) which was launched to fill the gap for emergency response units in the psychiatric sphere. The PIU consists of a hotline coupled with a vehicular response unit and is manned by paramedics trained in both intermediate life support as well as basic counselling skills. SUPPORT SYSTEMS Finding a support system for this time of year can go a long way to alleviate feelings of loneliness, depression, and despair. "Find someone or a group to talk to and have your feelings expressed and heard by a compassionate person. There are many people who struggle during this time of year, especially if it reminds them of a lost loved one, and joining a support group or going for psychotherapy does not only give you a greater sense of belonging, it can also provide friends with common understanding to prevent a sense of loneliness. "Where possible, try to keep active and busy with a regular routine so you don't stay home alone with your thoughts mulling in your mind. If you're an active person, keep going to gym regularly, or consider starting a hobby to create, or make something over the festive season." Joining a support group or going for psychotherapy does not only give you a greater sense of belonging, it can also provide friends with common understanding to prevent a sense of loneliness. 30 I NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015 Pharmacy Magazine EDUCATION Indicative of end-of-the-year blues, are symptoms like withdrawing from social activities; feeling a greater sense of frustration, anger or irritability; and a feeling of hopelessness or despair. TYPE OF DEPRESSION There are several different types of depression, according to Coats: Major depressive disorder in which depressive episodes occur more consistently over a long period, sometimes a full lifetime Dysthymia is milder than major depression and symptoms occur for at least two years A single depressive episode may have similar features to a major depressive disorder, but it occurs over a shorter period, at different severity levels and can often be as a result of an event or life stress, for example sudden job loss Seasonal pattern episodes where an individual experiences depressive moods during a particular season Bipolar disorder is a combination of depressive features, which then alternate with manic features in a constant almost see-saw like pattern. There are two types@ About Akeso Clinics Akeso Clinics is a group of private in-patient psychiatric clinics that prides itself on providing individual, integrated and family-oriented treatment for a range of psychiatric, psychological and addictive conditions. Akeso Clinics offer specialised in-patient treatment facilities. For more information: www.akeso.co.za South African and international studies show that the prevalence of depression is rising However, there has also been a significant shift towards understanding and creating an awareness of what depression is and how to treat it, which in turn has reduced the stigma often associated with this condition and allowed people to acknowledge that they need help and consequently receive appropriate support and intervention. So it's a double-sided scenario — depression rates are apparently increasing, but the stigma attached to it has reduced, which has allowed more people to come forward for help when they need it Depression statistics most recently gathered in the South African Stress and Health Study, suggest that depression is more prevalent in females and for people with lower education levels The study also concluded that the prevalence of major depression was 9.7% over a lifetime However, other South African studies have indicated higher prevalence rates of 27% among rural and 25% among urban populations The World Health Organisation predicts that depression will be the leading disease burden by the year 2030 lig) Pharmacy Magazine NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015 I 31