The month of May saw the Depression and Anxiety Support Group focusing on school awareness campaigns in both black and white communities.
On the 12th May, Dr. Saffer and Johannesburg psychologist, Kevin Furman, jointly addressed a fifty-strong meeting held at Redhill School. The audience was composed of educational psychologists, guidance teachers and counselors from Redhill, St. Stithians, King David, St. Andrews, Kingsmead, American International School, St. Peters and Rhodean. Dr. Saffer’s speech involved the definitions and varying symptomology associated with depression, as well as the important role health practitioners and teachers can play in identifying and treating the disorder. Dr. Saffer also emphasised that depression can present itself in different ways in adolescence – for example, in the form of conduct disorder or drug abuse. Mr. Furman discussed cognitive behavioural therapy, a specific psychotherapeutic interventions that works well with depressive patients, and the changing of negative “schemas” in the therapy process. Sue Redelinghuys, the organiser of the monthly guidance teachers meeting, commented that it was interesting to view both the psychiatric and psychological perspectives on depression. Dr. Saffer believes that psychoeducation is particularly important in that it “changes attitudes towards ‘illness’ and paves the way for understanding by the patients, parents and community.”
On the 14th May, Johannesburg psychiatrist, Dr. Wynchank gave a talk to seventy teachers at the Teachers Training College in Soweto. Dr. Wynchank focused on social phobia, depression in children and Attention Deficit Disorder. One of the more interesting questions from the audience involved why depression is more common in women than it is in men. Dr. Wynchank pointed out that this is due to a number of factors – women tend to have more contact with social services, men tend to “hide” their depression behind substance abuse and women are more affected by hormonal changes. The audience also spoke about the high levels of violence in the township communities and the traumatic impact this has on their students. In response, Dr. Wynchank discussed the use of help lines and the idea of creating a support group for teachers. The overall response to the talk was very positive and appreciative.
SUPPORT GROUP UNDERTAKES COUNTRY-WIDE TALKS
Over the past few months, The Depression and Anxiety Support Group has arranged country-wide talks to address groups as far afield as Mitchells Plain, Pietersburg, Umtata, Kimberley, Potchefstroom and Mmbatho.
By the end of the campaign, they will have addressed over thirty different support groups and/or Doctors groups on the subjects of depression, panic, social phobia and anxiety. Dr. Fred de Beer, who has recently addressed groups in Pietersburg and Umtata, believes that the support group is having a positive impact countrywide in encouraging sufferers to work together productively, and in continually bringing the latest updates on anxiety and depression to their local GP’s. Dr. Seape, psychiatrist at Baragwanath Hospital, recently addressed a 100 strong audience in Soweto on identifying symptoms of depression and helping family and friends with the disorder. From this one meeting, 5 sub groups have already been formed.