Mental Health Awareness Month
(27 Oct 2015)

Mental Health Awareness Month Expresso

Mental Health Awareness Month


Are you suffering from a chronic condition like high blood pressure and experience feelings of isolation or worthlessness, constant fatigue or loss of interest in activities that used to bring you joy? You could possibly be suffering from depression or other mental health conditions.


On Expresso this morning we were joined by Mariska van Aswegen, Pharma Dynamics spokesperson, to discuss this topic that is affecting a large number of the South African population who suffer from chronic conditions.



October is Mental Health Awareness month, and we know that Pharma Dynamics recently revealed research findings that showed Mental Health in SA is on the increase, if one considers the increase in the demand for antidepressants over recent years. What do you attribute this increase to?


Unfortunately statistics are scant, but medical experts suggest that the increase in use of antidepressants in recent years can be linked to the rise in chronic conditions. It is estimated that nearly a third of individuals with a chronic illness have a mood disorder such as depression and anxiety, and if we compare these stats to the risk of depression in individuals considered to be healthy we can in part attribute the increase in use of antidepressants to the increase in chronic illnesses.



Chronic diseases are becoming one of the highest causes of death in developing countries, and accounts for 40% of deaths in South Africa - what is the association between chronic diseases and symptoms of depression?


Depression itself can be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. But, having a chronic illness, which usually results in tremendous life changes and interferes with how well you function, can be a major contributor to depression. It’s completely normal for people with a chronic illness to feel despair. Although any illness can trigger depression, the risk gets higher with the severity of the illness and the level of life disruptions it causes.



What is the risk of depression then in individuals who suffer from a chronic illness?


To put in into context, the risk of depression in individuals considered to be healthy, is usually 10% to 25% for women, and 5% to 12% for men, but those with chronic illnesses face a much higher risk - between 25% to 33%. Research shows that 40% to 65% of heart-attack patients, 40% of Parkinson’s patients, 25% of cancer patients and 30% to 54% of patients with chronic pain syndrome develop depression.



How do we promote mental wellbeing and resilience to stress, anxiety and other negative influences in our lives?


Remember firstly that a combination of factors can cause depression when you have a chronic illness, like the disease itself, changes in appearance, mobility, independence, pain and fatigue and/or side-effects medication.

To cope with chronic illness you may have to rethink your goals and creatively find opportunities in your new reality. If you can’t manage as much as you used to, don’t be hard on yourself. Learn to set yourself reachable goals while keeping your situation in mind.

Remember that isolation only leads to depression and it is easy to isolate yourself when you are feeling low. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t say no when people offer assistance. If however your symptoms worsen, talk to your Dr who will either recommend medicine or psychotherapy that will help you deal with the depression or anxiety.



As October draws to an end, so does Mental Health Awareness Month, if you feel like you’re suffering from depression or any other mental heal issue contact Pharma Dynamics’ toll-free helpline on: 0800 205 026, or visit




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