“Just because no one else can heal your inner work for you doesn’t mean you can, should, or need to do it alone.”
In many cultures, countries and families, mental health is still a stigmatized idea that is hushed up and not spoken of. It is an idea that many are taught to be ashamed of, told that it is all in their head. This, however is NOT true.
Mental health by definition includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being, however is not limited to this. Without mental health, there is limited physical health, and thus one cannot be expected to be physically healthy if one does not take care of their mental health first.
For many who experience mental health issues or disorders, they suffer in silence. This however is really not necessary, but a result of the stigma placed on mental health in our society.
17 million people in South Africa suffer from at least one of the most common mental diagnoses. These include depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. You are not alone, there are millions who will understand and sympathise with you. There are thousands that will share their experiences to help you.
Admitting that you need help is the first step. Whilst it does make it easier to have supportive family members or friends, it is your right to receive medical help.
Whilst many are reluctant to see a psychiatrist or psychologist, one must remember that all information is confidential and nobody will know what you have spoken about unless the psychologist believes that your life or someone else’s life is in immediate danger.
Whilst to a certain extent, it is your responsibility to help yourself, I do not believe that mental health is an issue that can be solved or treated alone. Naturally, humans need support in order to fulfil their purpose, and this is the same for mental health.
Talking to people can really help to improve mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Finding someone who can be there for you as often as you need and does not make you feel like a burden is really important. This person can be a psychologist, family member, friend or a trusted person like a mentor. (See helplines below.)
Lastly, a change in lifestyle can really have a great benefit on someone who suffers from any mental disorder.
Exercising frequently, even if it just a walk can really help to calm the mind and improve the mood. A change in diet can also be of great benefit. It is a good idea to increase intake of food containing magnesium, folate, zinc and essential fatty acids as well as foods rich in polyphenols such as berries, tea, dark chocolate and certain herbs.
Other than a good diet and exercise, getting plenty of sleep can also help to optimise brain brain function and decrease depression and anxiety as well as other mental disorders.
You can also try to get at least 30 minutes of sunlight a day. Owning a pet and spending time with it can also be beneficial.
Refraining from activities that only distract for a short period of time, such as self-harm, alcohol abuse and drug use is also a good idea. These effects are temporary and will be detrimental at a later stage.
The most important thing that you remember, is that you are not alone. Even if you feel that there is nobody who can help you or nobody who cares, there are thousands of people who would love to help. You are never alone.
Mental health is not a destination, but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you are going.
Useful helplines in case you’d like to reach out
The Talking Point
0861 887 887
Safe Schools Hotline
0800 45 46 47
South African Depression & Anxiety Group
0800 12 13 14
LifeLine South Africa
0861 322 322
LifeLine Western Cape
021 421 1111
(0027) 51 444 5000
080 024 2436
The Trevor Project (LGBTQ+)
1 866 488 73865
For Isabella, her love for birds is not just a passion, but a way of life. Born in 2004, she was raised alongside a beautiful flock of chickens as well as many other birds like cockatiels, budgies, quail and water fowl. She considers herself one of the flock and stands strongly against the cruel treatment towards broiler and battery hens. Isabella spends her time writing poetry and essays as well as hatching and raising many species of birds, including strays or injured wild birds. As an aspiring veterinarian, she hopes to make a difference in the lives of broiler chickens as well as the environment.