Many South Africans suffering from mental health disorders are afraid of speaking up about it due to the stigma associated with depression and anxiety. However, this is not limited to our shores. An estimated 400 million people worldwide suffer from mental disorders. These include conditions like depressive disorder, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), dementia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The pandemic certainly contributed to the increase in mental health issues among working adults and school-going youth around the world, including South Africa. Dr Ade van Heerden, a medical officer running a primary healthcare clinic for SANDF, agrees with this sentiment. “Having families locked in a house together for extended periods has increased the feeling of loneliness in kids and adults alike. Kids reported worrying about the future of school and their ability to succeed, while financial burdens, remote working and limited social interactions have all contributed to increased feelings of isolation, irritation, fear and anxiety in adults.”
As such, many people are turning to naturally-based medications like Emozac to help manage these feelings and improve their overall mental clarity and wellbeing.
“Kids and teenagers have also greatly increased their social media screen time, which is proven to escalate anxiety and depression symptoms. There has also been more interpersonal conflict within families, putting more stress on all parties involved. The truth is that we have seen an unprecedented increase in suicide in men, women and teenagers due to lockdown restrictions globally. This tells us everything we need to know about how the pandemic is impacting our mental health,” Dr van Heerden continues.
Breaking the stigma
Dr van Heerden has advised that there are key symptoms to look out for when suspecting a loved one is struggling mentally. “The most common symptoms include feelings of sadness, hopelessness and emptiness. They may also be more tearful, agitated, distracted or angrier than usual. Loss of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies or sport is also common, while weight fluctuations, unusual or disturbed sleeping schedules and unexplained physical issues like headaches have also been reported.”
This Mental Health Awareness Month, Dr van Heerden encourages everyone to speak up in order to help destigmatise mental health problems. “We need to equip parents with the tools to recognise depression or anxiety in their children. We also need to keep working towards information, education and treatment available for all, especially in rural areas.”
Not all symptoms are the same
Dr van Heerden also notes that in mild and even sometimes moderate cases of anxiety and depressive feelings, the focus should be on lifestyle and psychological interventions, assisted by over-the-counter medications sourced from nature like Emozac by Releaf Pharmaceuticals. “When experiencing the symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression, it’s easy to turn to pharmaceutical medication. However, there are natural alternatives and lifestyle changes that can be made to improve your overall wellbeing and assist in dealing with these symptoms.”
Emozac assists in the relief of anxiety and depressive symptoms, contributes to emotional balance and promotes a more positive mood. “Emozac contains an Iranian Saffron extract that works like fluoxetine (an over-the-counter medication) to decrease cortisol levels (a stress hormone) and balances your brain’s neurotransmitters. This has been clinically proven to encourage calmness and emotional balance, improve mood, support relaxation, reduce stress and promote better sleep,” says Dr van Heerden.
Lifestyle and diet changes
Dr van Heerden also encourages exercise and healthy diet changes to your lifestyle. “If done regularly, exercise is proven to decrease the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. Exercise releases feel-good hormones to improve your mood and lower your stress levels, while it also boosts confidence and general physical health.”
A healthy, balanced diet also plays an important role in keeping your mind healthy. “For the body to function optimally, it needs a wide range of micronutrients and minerals to keep your gut and brain happy. Spending time outdoors will enhance vitamin D and melatonin levels, which play a crucial role in your mental health. Some time outside every day will keep these nutrients topped up naturally.”
Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity for all South Africans to acknowledge the importance of good mental health, learn how to identify the signs of anxiety and depression and educate themselves on finding the right solution. As such, Dr van Heerden has partnered with Emozac to encourage South Africans to move their bodies for 15 minutes a day for the month of October in support of Mental Health Awareness and to help break the stigma.
Releaf Pharmaceuticals has committed to donating products and a portion of its Emozac sales in October to the Inala Mental Health Foundation, a non-profit company dedicated to youth development through mental health and personal development programmes. Together with Inala, Releaf hopes to inspire change, educate and encourage upliftment one community at a time.
“Too many people are suffering in silence,” concludes Dr van Heerden. “It’s time for us to all do our part, whether it’s speaking up or lending a helping hand.”
*All treatment of illness should begin with your doctor’s opinion.
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About Releaf Pharmaceuticals
Releaf Pharmaceuticals is a thought-leading, South African-based pharmaceutical company in the Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAMs) category of products. It is focused on creating and sharing scientifically backed, best-in-class products and solutions, which exceed the CAMs/SAHPRA requirements within the CAMs product categories. Their solutions talk to the needs of a conscious, informed, health-focused community: people who proactively cultivate a healthy lifestyle and believe implicitly in preventative health – who also expect their doctor or pharmacist to offer them trusted alternatives.
About Inala Mental Health Foundation
Inala Mental Health Foundation is a registered NPO offering psycho-social therapeutic services to youth, adults and families in Cape Town. Inala runs a series of programmes that help at-risk youth build mental resilience and wellbeing in the face of often traumatic and difficult circumstances – outside and within the home. Its psycho-social therapeutic programmes include sports, education, nature therapy and community upliftment and advocacy. Inala provides a safe space where individuals come to recognise their inherent value, discover healthy ways to relieve stress and soothe their nervous systems, and build a mental wellbeing toolkit that can sustain them throughout their lives.
Inala’s approach to mental wellbeing is unique in that participants are encouraged and supported in taking responsibility for their own mental wellbeing and in so doing uncover a wellspring of joy, hope and possibility for a life of their own design.