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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SADAG NEWSLETTER

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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

Our society continues to perpetuate the myth of male strength and invincibility. Although the times are changing, many South African men still feel that it is “unmanly” to admit to weakness or vulnerability. So, what happens when a man finds himself battling with a mental illness? How does he explain to his colleagues and friends that he can’t cope anymore? And what is the best approach that he can take in order to regain control of his life?

Statistics show that most mental illnesses are more frequent in the female population. Major depression is twice as common in women as it is in men, and women dominate in nearly all the anxiety disorders. There are a number of theories that have been postulated to explain this uneven distribution. Some experts believe it is connected to the hormonal imbalances in women, whilst others believe that men are merely underreporting their experiences. “Females do tend to come into contact with health professionals more often than men do,” says Dr. Wynchank, a Johannesburg psychiatrist, “and women are socialised into seeking help more readily. Both of these factors could influence the gender differences reflected in the statistics.”

One psychiatric disorder in which men dominate easily is that of substance abuse. “Often men are self-medicating with illicit drugs and alcohol in order to treat an underlying depression, anxiety or personality disorder which has not yet received adequate treatment,”explains Dr. Westmore, a Bloemfontein psychiatrist.

Although half as many men as women are reported to suffer from depression the rate of suicide in men is three times more prevalent than that in women. Men aged 18 to 24 form the highest suicide group in many countries. Once again, experts point back to the fact that fear and shame often keep men with mental problems from seeking help. If left untreated, depression can result in poor work performance, substance abuse and broken families. Sometimes, suicide appears to be the only solution left for desperate men. Men frequently commit suicide by more violent means, such as hanging or the use of firearms.

Ian*, a middle aged businessman remembers the kind of hopelessness he felt when he lapsed into depression at the beginning of 1995: “I began to lost interest in my business, leisure activities and civic responsibilities. I became indecisive about everything and couldn’t sleep at night.”

Ian was diagnosed with dysthymia (a mild, persistent depression) and anxiety, and was put onto an antidepressant. Three to four weeks later, his depressive symptoms began to


decrease, and he was able to focus on his work again. Ian believes that many men suffer needlessly because society teaches them that getting help is a sign of weakness.

Men who find themselves suffering from mental illness can take heart from the fact that they are in good company. Some of the most talented men in history suffered from a mental illness at some point in their lives. Abraham Lincoln, Ernest Hemingway and Charles Dickens all suffered from clinical depression, whilst it is reported that Ludwig von Beethoven, Edgar Allen Poe and Vincent van Gogh all battled with the ups and downs of bipolar depression.

Untreated mental health problems can result in both financial and human costs being incurred at top firms. For instance, a benchmark study published in 1993 by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of technology estimated depression’s cost to employers at $23.8 billion annually in absenteeism and lost productivity. Recent research indicated that at least 10% of American employees are depressed.

Male employees are often particularly worried about the personal stigma associated with mental illness in the business world. Even at the most progressive firms, the stigma surrounding mental illness can remain a barrier to effective medical care. Dr. Westmore agrees that, if left untreated, a psychiatric disorder can affect an individual’s ability to function properly in the workplace. However, if treated timeously with the correct programme, many sufferers can continue to perform as effective employees.

So, what kind of help is available for men that decide to confront their mental problems? Most mental illnesses are best treated by a three-pronged approach that involves medication, therapy and self-help. The best solution is to find a skilled psychologist and psychiatrist that can work in conjunction to ensure that you are receiving the best possible treatment for your illness. “More often than not, patients feel immense relief when they finally receive a proper diagnosis from a professional,” says Dr. Wynchank.

Educational campaigns need to continue to promote tolerance and combat ignorance regarding mental illness in men. Often men with underlying psychiatric problems present to their GP’s with superfluous physical complaints. GP’s need to be aware of these kinds of scenarios and be able to tactfully refer men to mental health professionals.

Antidepressants and sexual dysfunction

Many depression and anxiety sufferers have found that the usage of antidepressants has given them a new lease on life by effectively dispelling their depressive moods and stabilising anxious conditions. Unfortunately, amongst the more popular groups of antidepressants, such as tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the negative side effect of sexual dysfunction is still a very real problem.

Common sexual dysfunction as a result of antidepressants include problems with delayed ejaculation, decreased libido or sexual desire, erectile failure or difficulties and inability to orgasm. Degrees of sexual dysfunction vary according to the type of antidepressant and the mechanism of action that is involved.

Dr. Frans Korb, as psychiatrist and clinical psychologist in private practice says that there are ways and means of getting around antidepressant-related sexual dysfunction. “One possibility is to decrease the antidepressant medication to low dosages, so that the patient still has the benefit of the drug’s positive effects but few negative side effects. Often, once a patient has been on an antidepressant for a fairly long time, the side effects naturally decrease anyway. Another option is for the patient to change to another type of antidepressant which might not have the same negative sexual side effects.”

Sexuality is not just all biological, though. Kevin Bolon, a clinical psychologist with a special interest in cognitive behavioural therapy, reminds us that sexual activity is a complex interplay of biological, social and psychological processes. He believes that many sufferers blame medication far too easily for their sexual dysfunction where there could be a number of other variables involved.


 

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