Mental Health and Creating a Personal State of Wellbeing

An individual’s mental health is just as important and requires as much self-care as an individual’s physical health. But what is mental health, you may ask.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as a “state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.

According to WHO, there are many different mental disorders, with different presentations. “They are generally characterised by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others.”

Information provided on the WHO website says mental disorders include depression, bipolar effective disorder and schizophrenia.

“Depression is a common mental disorder and one of the main causes of disability worldwide,” WHO confirms.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) says depression affects people of both sexes and all races, cultures and social classes. According to SADAG, it is estimated that 20% of the population may suffer from major depression in the course of the lives. Remember, children can also become depressed!

There are a number of mood disorders that classify as depressive disorders, the SA Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) writes. “What these disorders all have in common are feelings of sadness, emptiness, an irritable mood, accompanied by physical and mental changes that have a negative effect on an individual’s ability to function in their daily lives.”

The South African Department of Health says that excessive or prolonged stress can lead to illness and physical and emotional exhaustion. They list physical, emotional and behavioural changes under the signs and symptoms of stress. Anxiety, fear, anger, frustration and depression fall under the heading of emotional changes, while behavioural changes can include being withdrawn, indecisive, inflexible, irritable and tearful.

A depressive disorder is a “whole-body” illness, SADAG says, involving your body, mood and thoughts. “It affects the way you eat and sleep and the way you feel about yourself.”

According to SADAG, there are many things you can do to help yourself during a depressive episode and prevent future episodes. Here are 10 no-cost ways to treat depression yourself, courtesy of SADAG.

  1. Make sure to get up out of bed and dress every day. Try to establish a routine that is easy to follow and not stressful.
  2. Get adequate sleep.
  3. Make sure to eat a balanced diet and get regular exercise.
  4. Avoid drinking alcohol.
  5. Keep a journal and write your feelings down.
  6. Surround yourself with positive influences, avoid negativity.
  7. Be patient and kind to yourself.
  8. Try to share your feelings with someone. It is usually better than being alone and secretive.
  9. Even if you don’t feel motivated, try to participate in religious, social or other activities. Try to do the things you remember enjoying before the onset of your depression.
  10. Start or join a support group and talk to people who have overcome depression to find out what they did to beat it.

If you suspect you are suffering from depression, or perhaps think that someone close to you is showing signs of depression, speak to your pharmacist or local healthcare practitioner.

These organisations also provide a library of information online on depression and other mental health disorders:

  1. South African Depression and Anxiety Group –
  2. South African Federation for Mental Health –
  3. South African Department of Health –
  4. World Health Organization –