Women's Month: Mental Health

Posted by Sanele Michelle Magagula on

Women's Month: Mental Health

As you can see from the title, this week the blog will take a different direction and focus on mental health in the spirit of women's month. We as women are celebrated as empowered and strong beings; as the saying goes: ‘wathint’ abafazi, wathint' imbokodo’ (you strike the women, you strike a rock). But we can also suffer from mental and emotional turmoil that in a lot of cultures isn't acknowledged or taken seriously. As many as one in six South Africans suffer from anxiety, depression or substance-use problems (and this does not include more serious conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia), according to statistics released by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG)

These days when we speak about self-care we are usually referring to caring for the health of our skin, nails, body, fitness and even our hair; but what about our mental health? Many women suffer from depression and anxiety that isn't always spoken about. Women can also suffer from stress and burnout. Struggling with your emotions can sometimes be seen as a weakness which is so detrimental to your mental health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mental disorders can affect women and men differently. Some disorders are more common in women, such as depression and anxiety. There are also certain types of disorders that are unique to women. For example, some women may experience symptoms of mental disorders at times of hormone changes, such as perinatal depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and perimenopause-related depression. 

Women and men can develop most of the same mental disorders and conditions, but may experience different symptoms. Some symptoms include:

  • Persistent sadness or feelings of hopelessness
  • Misuse of alcohol and/or drugs
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Excessive fear or worry
  • Seeing or hearing things that are not there
  • Extremely high and low moods
  • Aches, headaches, or digestive problems without a clear cause
  • Irritability
  • Social withdrawal
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you or someone you know are constantly experiencing one or more of these symptoms then it might be time to speak to a doctor. The thing that many might not realize about mental health is that it also affects you physically. Last year I developed hormonal acne, which is acne caused by fluctuations in your hormone levels, coupled with hair loss. All of this because of stress, anxiety and feelings that I wasn’t dealing with properly. I had otherwise always had relatively okay skin but at 25 years old suddenly developed hormonal acne all due to stress and emotional turmoil that I was ignoring and not prioritizing. I also had issues with my blood pressure because of this. It takes more strength to ask for help than it does to bottle up your emotions and throw on a fake smile for the gram or for your friends and family. Your health matters and you matter. 

The upcoming blog this Thursday I will focus a little more on anxiety, depression, stress and burnout (how to identify them) and I will also provide links and information of where you can get help if you feel you need it.

“I wish people could understand that the brain is the most important organ of our body. Just because you can't see mental illness like you could see a broken bone, doesn't mean its not as detrimental or devastating to a family or an individual” - Demi Levato.


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