Like most of the world, we recognised October as Mental Health Awareness Month in South Africa. As we currently face the impact of a country-wide lockdown, and extended periods of isolation and remote-working due to covid19 the fact that one in four people will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives remains incredibly relevant.
Mental Health Awareness Month was recognised in the United States from 1949 and has continued to gain prevalence throughout the rest of the world. Yet there is still stigma and uncertainty around this pressing wellness topic. It’s both difficult to talk about and listen too.
As someone who has suffered from mental health issues, and sought out help and support from my family, colleagues and therapists, this topic is very close to my heart. I believe we need to continue educating ourselves and those around us about mental health – the signs, symptoms and support mechanisms in place.
Being well informed means you are better able to manage your own mental health, but also to offer support to those around you who may be suffering.
Know the signs and symptoms
Mental illness doesn’t take a “one-size fits all” approach to its patients. Instead, it looks and feels different for everyone. However, several general symptoms can be indicative of a mental health illness. These include changes in mood and sleeping patterns. As well as a lack of energy, low concentration and feelings of anxiety, irritability or aggressiveness. Individuals might avoid social activities and report higher absenteeism at work or school.
Reach out for support
Today there are numerous mechanisms of support for people suffering from mental health issues. Your medical aid provider or general Practioner will be able to guide and refer you to the right health care provider. In fact, many organisation’s have dedicated mental health policies and formal referral processes for Employee Assistance Programmes. Speak to your HR Manager if you are uncertain of how your workplace supports mental health.
Fight the stigma
We all have a part to play in reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health illness. It starts with taking a genuine interest in those around you – checking-in often with friends, family and colleagues. Asking if they are okay and actively listening to their answers.
If you suffer or have suffered from a mental health illness, I encourage you to speak out about your experience. The more we talk about such diseases, the more we will normalise mental health concerns. More conversations around mental health will equate to more timely and more significant support for those suffering.