October is Mental Health Awareness Month and everyone’s mental health has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Why is it so important to raise awareness about mental health issues?
Well the answer is simple: mental health is a silent killer, and keeping silent, perpetuating the mental health stigma, will only make matters worse.
Almost 8% of all deaths in South Africa are due to suicide. These statistics were likely created before the coronavirus pandemic, after which these statistics were only collected in hospitals, which means that the actual number of suicides may be much higher. There also seems to be a consensus among mental health professionals that the coronavirus will lead to an increase in mental health problems, which means that 8% may increase even higher in 2020.
But how do we prevent suicide? Well, there are a few warning signs that family / friends should look out for:
- Talking or writing about suicide (e.g. “I won’t be your problem much longer”)
- Withdrawal from social contact
- Mood swings
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Feelings of helplessness
- Changing routines such as eating or sleeping patterns
- Self-destructive behavior, e.g. B. Cutting, reckless driving, risky behavior
- Give away my belongings
- Develop personality changes.
If you notice any of these changes in a loved one, don’t avoid them, speak to them:
- talk about depression and anxiety
- Discourage isolation,
- Promote healthy lifestyle changes, such as: B. exercise and a healthy diet,
- Support treatment plans,
- Put the person on a suicide watch
- Most importantly, keep firearms, medicines, and alcohol safe.
What to do if you feel suicidal
- Confirm that you can’t handle it.
- Ask for help. Reaching out to others can be really helpful when you are dealing with strong emotions.
- See a local psychiatrist.
- Have a coping toolbox with a contingency plan to help you cope better with a stressful situation. It contains information, tools, and resources to help you. Also, turn to names and numbers for help
- Journal – Expressive writing helps you understand what is happening in your life. This can be a way to better process and rethink the meaning of events and how you would like to respond to them and help you express pent-up emotions about events that have happened.
- A useful way to deal with intense emotions and contain harmful impulses.
- Expressive writing shared with others can give you a sense of social support. It feels good to share your letter and get positive feedback or let others tell you that they went through similar circumstances.
- listen to music
- Take part in an activity. Take a walk, dance, swim, exercise.
- Be creative – read a list of emotions and write them down in a journal, draw, use art or clay to create something.
- Make a motivating statement, e.g. “I am calm and get on well”
- Use positive thinking and constructive self-talk to lift your spirits.
- Wait the 10 minutes and practice riding the emotions.
- Sit or lie in a quiet place and focus your attention on your breathing. Breathe steadily, slowly, and deeply.
Scary as the statistics are, suicide isn’t the only mental health problem. The
Femicide and gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa are causing significant trauma across the country. The associated stress, depression and anxiety affect victims deeply.
Our inability to go without alcohol for a few months was illustrated by the looting of bottled shops, selling illegal alcohol, brewing alcohol at home, and stockpiling alcohol when alcohol was not allowed to be sold, as some southern states showed Africans cannot get along without alcohol.
Does this mean we are using alcohol to deal with the stress that Covid-19 has caused? If so, we as a nation may need to find other healthier ways to deal with our resilience.
- How well can you deal with change and recover after a crisis?
- how positive you are after an incident;
- how well you deal with a stressful situation;
- how you see the situation – positive or negative;
- Your degree of maturity.
Not all mental health problems are as scary as suicide or as overtly problematic as alcoholism, but what is constant about all mental health problems is the stigma attached to it. Here are some misconceptions:
- If you seek help, you are weak.
- Men don’t cry.
- Deal with it.
- Your life is not bad how can you be sad
- You have nothing to be depressed about.
- Only crazy people need professional help.
These are just some of the things people who have serious mental health problems are told. Stigmas like these make people fearful about seeking help. This increases the pre-existing feeling of helplessness and loneliness that one experiences when suffering from a mental health problem.
Seeking help is normal, life is extremely difficult, and we all need help now and then. We go to the doctor for a broken arm without being belittled. Then why does it make me weak when I want to see a psychologist because of my broken heart or feelings of helplessness, or when I feel lost or overwhelmed?
This October, find out the nearest place to get the help you need instead of digging into the darkest or most interesting mental health issue. Don’t think that your life is not difficult enough to seek help. You are important. And your sanity too.
Liam Parrish is a consultant at Masithethe Counseling Services.
Masithethe Counseling Services (formerly LifeLine East London) has been providing confidential, free counseling to residents of the Buffalo City borough since 1985 (age 35). Contact number: 043-722-2000 or WhatsApp 084-091-5410
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