We fake being okay- We do not fake depression

A growing number of people worldwide are suffering from depression and anxiety. The past couple of years have certainly brought enough challenges. Covid caused many people to suffer from the illness itself, lose their jobs and lose family members to the dreaded virus. There have also been numerous war zones like Ukraine and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In South Africa too, we have had our own hardships. From drought to devastating floods in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, to rioting in KwaZulu-Natal and of course, the ever-present load shedding and high unemployment. It is no wonder people are struggling to cope.

The psychologist can provide useful tools.

Depression is described as a mental health disorder characterized by a person suffering from a depressed mood and a general loss of interest in their usual activities.  Depression can be caused by situations such as the death of a loved one, divorce or retrenchment from one’s employment. This is normal, and over time one will start to feel better. However, depression that lasts for weeks on end, is worrying and needs to be addressed. Sufferers will complain of disruptive sleep, poor concentration, inability to make simple decisions, low self-worth, and hopelessness. Some will feel de-energized, anxious and even suicidal. The family members and friends of the sufferer will need to step in to help, as the sufferer usually cannot make decisions for themselves. Family members and friends will find themselves saddened and exasperated with the sufferer as there is no quick cure.

Counselling with a psychologist will be beneficial in helping to alleviate feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness. The psychologist can provide useful tools to helping the sufferer cope in their situations. A doctor may prescribe an antidepressant to help the sufferer to cope. Family members and friends need to be supportive and caring, whether it be a listening ear, providing transport to therapy or even supplying readymade meals.

Hyper anxiety sufferers are often put on anxiolytics, medications which are used to treat anxiety.

Hyper anxiety disorder is described as a persistent worry and extreme fear of daily situations. Anxiety is normal in everyday situations such as writing an examination, speaking in public or doing one’s driving test. However, when anxiety takes over one’s life, and one is unable to function normally, then there is a problem. The sufferer will complain of feeling extremely nervous, unable to relax, feeling of impending doom, a thumping heartbeat, headaches, loss of appetite and the sufferer may experience panic attacks.

Hyper anxiety disorder often occurs hand in hand with depression. Therefore, the sufferer will need to seek medical help, either in the form of a general practitioner, psychiatrist or a psychologist or all three. Hyper anxiety sufferers are often put on anxiolytics, medications which are used to treat anxiety. They can help immensely in calming down the sufferer. However, as with depression, treatment takes time and patience and understanding.

Some well-known comics and actors have suffered from depression.

Family members and friends, besides needing to be supportive and nurturing towards the sufferer, need to encourage the sufferer to do activities that they enjoy. Whether it be a stroll in the garden, or a walk along the beach or listening to their favourite music. Doing things they enjoy will make them feel good and will raise their serotonin levels, ensuring a happier outlook.

Some well-known comics and actors have suffered from depression. The likes of Charlie Chaplin, Peter Sellars, John Cleese, Robin Williams and Jim Carrey have made us laugh over the years but inside battled crippling depression and insecurity. There was such a stigma attached to mental health some years ago due to a lack of knowledge and understanding. Fortunately, now, with social media, articles, and books, people are beginning to realize that it is an illness like any other illness, and needs treatment just as one would treat any kind of malady.

I will end with two quotes. The first is by American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

He said: “Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and oftentimes we call a man cold when he is only sad.”

The second quote is by the late, American actor, Robin Williams.

“Nobody fakes depression. We fake being ok. Remember that. Be kind.”

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