About one in six South Africans suffer from anxiety, depression or substance-abuse problems (which excludes more serious conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia), according to SACAP (South African College of Applied Psychology).

On top of this, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected many people’s mental wellbeing as they have faced (or are still facing) stress, anxiety, grief, and often, overwhelming challenges. To provide more perspective, of the people diagnosed with Covid-19 in the UK, about 20% were found to have suffered degrees of mental illness, as reported by Healthline.

1. Coping with stress
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides some healthy tips to cope with stress.

  • It is important to stay informed but constant Covid-19 news can be unsettling. Spend less time following the news.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, eat healthy meals, exercise, get enough sleep, and avoid excessive intake of alcohol and tobacco.
  • Find the time to unwind and do activities that you enjoy.
  • Connect with people that you can talk openly to about your feelings.

The CDC counsel that coping with stress in a healthy way can help you (and the people close to you) to become more resilient.

2. Stress can lead to depression
Depression has many possible causes but not coping with stress can increase the risk of depression and anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic. If your stress management steps (see point 1) are not working for you and you’re having trouble coping, chronic stress can overwhelm you. You may often be in a bad mood; your productivity may decrease, with decision-making and concentration proving difficult; your relationships may suffer; you may develop sleep problems; loss of appetite, and going about normal daily tasks can be challenging.

3. Getting help
In a WebMD article, therapist Nancy Irwin says that your GP can help to determine if you are overly stressed, depressed or suffering from anxiety. She says that being depressed makes us anxious, and anxiety makes us depressed. A vicious circle.

Depending on the severity of your condition, your GP may prescribe medication, refer you for counselling, and suggest ways to manage stress, including diet, lifestyle and exercise. If the situation is acute or life threatening, you may be referred to a clinic.

It is natural to feel stressed and anxious in these times and there is no stigma attached to having these feelings – you will definitely not be the first person talking to your GP about their mental wellness since March 2020!

4. The role of your pharmacist.
Because community pharmacists are often the most accessible healthcare providers, they are a valuable resource for their customers and patients.

“We pride ourselves on never being too busy to listen to our customers”, says Link’s Ryan Conybeare. “Link pharmacists are generally the actual owner-managers and experienced professionals who care for their communities. Customers talk to them openly and in this way, a screening can take place and the pharmacist can refer them to an appropriate healthcare practitioner”.

Should the customer be prescribed medication by their GP or specialist, the Link pharmacist continues to play a valuable role by:

  • Dispensing the medication accurately.
  • Consulting with the healthcare practitioner if need be.
  • Educating the customer about any side effects.
  • Pointing out the risks of non-adherence.
  • Advising of the expected time to experience therapeutic benefits.
  • Ensuring that the medication is ordered for repeats.

Conybeare says that prevention is also a key role played by the pharmacist.

“The pharmacist can advise the customer on ways to reduce stress which can range from providing counselling on a healthy diet and lifestyle to preventative medication. We share these times together, we know what our customers are feeling and we are here for them”.

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While all reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this article, information may change or become dated, as new developments occur. The Link group shall not be held liable or accountable for the accuracy, completeness or correctness of any information for any purpose. No content in this article, irrespective of the date or reference source, should be viewed as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor, pharmacist or any other suitably qualified clinician.