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On the 16th of February, two of ZwavelStream Clinic's psychiatrists featured in an interview hosted by "Die Groot Ontbyt" a show hosted by Kyknet South Africa. In this discussion on mental health, Dr Melissa Janse van Rensburg & Dr Louis Roos spoke about the role of psychiatry and how today's environment impacts our mental health.
Before we tell you more about this fantastic interview, let's take the time to introduce them properly
Dr Melissa Janse van Rensburg is a medical doctor specialising in psychiatry. She has a particular interest in pregnancy and post-natal Psychiatry, anxiety disorders and dementia, and a keen interest in women's mental health and wellness, which plays an integral part in the recovery and treatment process of patients struggling with mental health conditions.
Dr Louis Roos is a specialist psychiatrist. His experience includes managing a wide range of psychiatric conditions. Still, it has special interests in schizophrenia and the potential neuropsychiatric applications and consequences of cannabinoids. Dr Roos follows a patient-centred multidisciplinary approach to treating his patients and believes that patients should be involved in every aspect of their treatment process.
Watch the in-depth discussion on how today’s environment impacts everyone’s mental health
What's the role of a psychiatrist?
Dr Melissa answered:
According to our definition, mental health involves our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. Let's look at how it affects us. We know it affects how we think, how we feel and how we deal with certain factors in our life such as our interpersonal relationships and how we function at work. It also determines how we manage everyday stress. Mental health disorders can also affect our emotional wellbeing, behaviour, and thoughts, directly affecting our relationships with other people in and outside of a work environment. It also affects how a person functions within a work context.
What's the role of psychiatrists, and what makes ZwavelStream Clinic's psychiatrists different?
Dr Louis answered:
The role of the psychiatrist is to evaluate a person who shows the symptoms of a mental health disorder and diagnose them accordingly. A psychiatrist is also responsible for creating a treatment plan for the patient. The psychiatrist considers psychological and social factors that may or may not impact the patient during this process. Typically, the psychiatrist will prescribe medication to treat the diagnosed symptoms or refer the patient to other mental health practitioners such as social workers.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that specialises in psychiatry which is a four-year process. During this time, the psychiatrist will receive training in psychology and therapy. Therapy forms part of a psychiatrist's practice, depending on the psychiatrist. A psychologist has a master's degree in psychology and offers to counsel patients. They work with a clinical psychologist to provide treatment or therapy for psychiatric conditions.
How does economic uncertainty, Covid, crime and general factors impact an individual's psychology?
Dr Louis: Covid is a perfect example. At ZwavelStream, we see an increase in patients battling mental health linked to Covid and the fallout thereof. Covid can directly impact the brain, leading to several problems with concentration, memory, fatigue, and headaches. These symptoms can present themselves during the infection and after the patient has had Covid-19.
Many elements associated with Covid can also be traumatic such as being booked into ICU or during the isolation period for both young and old. Another traumatic factor we see that takes its toll is when someone is bereaved in the death of a loved one. Another factor that we see played a role in the last two years was an overall financial strain, which increased stress.
How long does it take to diagnose a patient?
Typically, a patient will spend a minimum of an hour with a psychologist at the ZwavelStream clinic before a diagnosis can be made. Depending on the severity of the mental health concern, of course. A general practitioner will refer a patient to a psychologist or psychiatrist depending on the signs and symptoms shown by the patient. After the initial shock, many patients are relieved after receiving a diagnosis because they are now aware of why they feel the way they do. At ZwavelStream, we serve as a support system for people receiving an unexpected diagnosis.
How does exercise impact mental health, and how can it improve a patient's mental health?
Exercise plays a significant role in our general mental health. It improves and alleviates anxiety, stress, depression and boosts your mood due to the release of healthy endorphins. Furthermore, regular exercise also improves self-esteem, a crucial psychological benefit. When you combine regular exercise with a healthy diet, the benefits increase even more. A Mediterranean diet, for instance, contains nutritional vitamins and improves cognitive function. In a study conducted by Medical News Today, researchers found that a high intake of vegetables and a low intake of meat and alcohol lowers the chances of developing depression or severe anxiety symptoms.
Is there a particular age group predisposed to mental health disorders?
Yes, there certainly is. In several low to middle-income countries, it was found that mental health has had a significant impact on the younger generation. Statistics also indicate that women are more susceptible to developing symptoms of anxiety and depression, more so than men. Looking back at the past two years, we see that genetics and hereditary factors also play a role. Another element of mental health that we see has an impact is a long-term post-Covid syndrome. After a person has had Covid, they can still be presented with lingering symptoms such as insomnia, ultimately impacting their mental health.
What is the impact on children of parents struggling with mental health?
Several parents with mental health difficulties can give their children love and care without negatively affecting them. Sometimes these parents require support from family members, friends or health care professionals. In some cases, severe mental health disorders in parents may lead to parental issues such as neglecting the child or other factors. It is essential to understand that not all children are affected by their parent's mental health conditions. In the interview, Dr Melissa, who specialises in pregnancy and post-natal Psychiatry, says that she sees the impact of a mother struggling with depression and its effect on the child in her line of work.
In some cases, where post-natal depression is at play, a mother's normal connection with their newborn child can be fragmented. We did a separate article on post-natal depression and its effects that you can read on our website. Dr Melissa did a separate interview on Ontbyt sake that you can also watch in this article.
Tips on building better mental health today
Becoming resilient and building a better mental health state starts with taking action. Your mental health influences how you feel, think and behave in your daily life. Being mentally healthy is more than being free of mental health conditions. This year everyone should prioritise their mental health to achieve or restore their quality of life.
Mentally healthy people are:
- Content with their environment or themselves
- They can manage stress and anxiety in a healthy manner
- They have a sense of purpose in personal relationships and ordinary daily activities
- They are well balanced in their everyday life
- Higher self-esteem and confidence
- The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships at work and in their personal lives outside of work
Every patient and their condition are unique, so each treatment plan is uniquely tailored to their needs. Treatment starts with a comprehensive evaluation. The psychiatrist will then diagnose and possibly run tests to ensure all aspects are carefully considered. Your doctor will then refer you to a specialist to receive the necessary treatment.
ZwavelStream clinic is situated in the Bronberg area of Pretoria east. Here you can receive treatment in an entirely de-stigmatised environment while you enjoy nature’s beauty. ZwavelStream clinic has gone above and beyond to create a healthy environment to restore our patient’s mental health. Mental illness is often met with fear and misunderstanding, but it uniquely touches everyone.
We aim to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness by equipping patients and their families and friends with education, information, and the tools to help them lead productive and fulfilling lives. Our multidisciplinary network is based on-site and provides the support and treatments needed to recover.
We address mental illness holistically and without any judgment whatsoever, with experienced specialists dedicated to the different forms of mental health. Get in touch if you suspect that you or a loved one might require the help of a mental health specialist.