NEW SUPPORT GROUP OFFERS A LIFELINE TO
Depression is a growing modern disease which will affect approximately 10% of people at some stage in their lifetime, with a high rate of recurrence. Yet, despite the many people who suffer from this disorder, depression often goes untreated and unrecognised. Those who have never experienced the dull grey emptiness of depression fail to understand it is a clinical disease, telling depressives that they should simply “pull themselves together.”
Now, in one of the biggest single initiatives by the pharmaceutical industry, South Africa’s leading pharmaceutical companies have banded together to form a much needed Depression Support Group, aimed at helping people with depression to recognise their illness and to get help for it. Their aims are also to promote awareness of the disease to the general public to help gain acceptance and understanding.
The new group functions alongside the existing Anxiety Disorders Support Group as a countrywide, non-profit organisation offering telephonic counseling, regional support groups, and an extensive referral system of psychiatrists, psychologists and general practitioners. A special effort will be made to extend the services and the educational message of the Group to rural communities.
A Support Group was launched in Siyabuswa in November. Peter Matlhaela, one of our members, who has had the illness for five years will be co-ordinating the support group in and around Siyabuswa. Peter says, “The support group has helped me to initiate an educational campaign that is going to help a lot of people who, like me, did not know what was wrong with them.”
What Is Depression ?
While we all feel down, or blue at times, the disease of depression is a whole body disorder, involving the body, mind, thoughts and feelings. It affects appetite, sleep, sex, and the way you feel and think about things. It is a biochemical disorder that is marked by intense feelings of sadness, despair, guilt or hopelessness.
Baragwanath Psychiatrist, and expert on Anxiety Disorders, Dr. S. Seape says, “Depression is a very serious illness and the various types of depression constitute the most common psychiatric disorders in adults. It occurs across all race groups and all age groups, although the highest concentration is among adults of ages 20 years to 50 years, with a female to male ratio of two to one.
At Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, depressed patients make up on average 15% of the daily intake. There is also a small group of patients with depression occurring secondary to a physical illness, e.g. hypothyroidism, CVA and vitamin deficiency, to quote but a few, and these would need to identified and treated appropriately.
Another very important group of patients, occurring most in the black population is the group of patients who present with somatic/pain complaints, as opposed to the classic complaints of depression. It is however, important to know that this illness is amenable to treatment, with very good results.”
Physical symptoms include sleep disturbances (insomnia, early awakenings or oversleeping), fatigue, headaches, chronic pain or digestive disorders. Indeed, two thirds of the cost of depression to the economy are incurred through absenteeism or lack of productivity, rather than through the provision of medical or psychological treatment. This is because as many as 80% of depressed people are never diagnosed, and without treatment, the symptoms can last for months or even years.
So while the financial cost of depression is high - estimated at $91 billion a year in the US alone - the real cost is emotional. The burden of getting though each day, for some people, becomes too much to bear.
Initiated by Professor Michael Berk, of the University of the Witwatersrand, and Zane Wilson, founder of the Anxiety Disorders Support Group, aims to get this much misunderstood disorder out into the open, to remove all stigma and misconceptions, and to get help for those who so desperately need it.