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Mental Health Series

DEALING WITH GRIEF

The MidweekSun Admin

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Every family at some point in their lives experience death. Reactions to death vary from individual to another with others having overwhelming responses. Grief is a natural expression to the loss of someone. Grief is encompassed by a wide range emotions that are influenced by cultural expectations and norms. As matter of fact, some tribes are expected to highly express themselves to demonstrate loss and not the case with others.

Following the loss, the individual’s first experience is often of denial, disbelief and shock. This can be preceded by sadness, anger, guilt and despair. The ultimate reaction is acceptance of the loss.
Normal grief fades with time, about six months to a year. In some instances, individuals may experience a different form which is termed complicated or pathologic grief. This is characterised by absent grief when individual is not demonstrating loss and delayed grief when symptoms are experienced a long time after the loss. There could also be distortion of normal grief symptoms whereby individual experience suicidal ideations or psychotic symptoms for example seeing images of the deceased in daytime.

Complicated and/or pathological grief is often experienced by individuals whom suffer loss suddenly under horrific circumstances, those dependent upon the deceased and those who believe are responsible for such a loss. It is important to acknowledge that it is not easy to deal with grief but the following can be helpful;

Catharsise feelings and express self Accept

feelings of sadness and the reality of the loss

The need to allow oneself to experience pain of loss

Have adequate sleeping time and plenty of rest

Exercise

Avoid destructive coping strategies like use of alcohol. Often when they clear off the body, feelings of sadness creeps in Grief therapy may be instituted if the normal grief process does not take course. Medication can also be used to treat symptoms and address sleeping problems when grief has taken a pathological form. As summed up by Shakespeare, “everyone can master a grief but he that has it.”

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Mental Health Series

The effects of dagga on mental health

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Recently the South African Supreme Court legalised the private use of dagga. Individuals are allowed to consume dagga in private and also grow for private use. The judgement brought mixed reactions on the issue and further fuelled the debate on dagga.

There are those who have used this judgement to the detriment of their own health. The crux of the matter though is that adverse effects of dagga cannot be underemphasised as far as mental health is concerned. Dagga use is quite popular amongst the youth which ostensibly explains the prevalence of dagga related disorders amongst them.

Effects of dagga are instant upon use. When dagga is smoked, it gets into the blood stream and then blood –brain barrier. This results in depressed brain activity, the end result being production of a dreamy state manifesting as delusions or hallucinations.

Delusions are altered thoughts whereby one may think he is a president when the reality is he is not. Hallucinations on the other hand is when an individual has distorted perceptions of reality like seeing a lion when it’s not there!

Others effects include:
paranoia,
panic attacks
anxiety
Impaired coordination and balance
Impairment in learning and memory

Various research studies have shown that heavy use of dagga facilitates the development of schizophrenia and substance use disorders. The amount of the drug used and the age at first use often place an increased vulnerability to develop these disorders. This explicitly explains why there are many youth who are having substance use disorders in our country.

Those using dagga may develop amotivational syndrome which basically means they have lost the willpower to do meaningful activities in life! This is basically the stroke that breaks the camel’s back, as other mental health problems may manifest from this.

Those whom are already diagnosed with mental health disorders can have symptoms of their conditions worsening when they use dagga. Depression and anxiety are often made worse by use of dagga. The false perception that taking dagga has a calming effect often predisposes those having mental health problems to take it in order to deal with their illness burden.

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Mental Health Series

Promoting mental health of the judiciary employees

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We always take workplace mental health issues universally but I would like to highlight that those working in the judiciary be it, Judges, Magistrates and court clerks, have peculiar conditions. I recently presented on the matter at Lobatse Magistrate Court wellness day and will share for the benefit of others.

Individuals under the judiciary employ play a critical role in Botswana mental health system. The Master of High Court appoints a curator bonis (trustee) to look into the custody of a mentally incapacitated individual whom cannot take decisions for self.

But how do the dynamics of their work affect their mental health? How can their mental health be promoted in the workplace?Judges, Magistrates and Court clerks preside over horrific criminal trials.

During trials they may be shown graphic images of the incident whilst at the same time there is narration! As highlighted in previous articles, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may develop after hearing of a horrific accident or simply seeing images.

Various researches have indicated that many judiciary employees experience flashbacks of the incidents as they were narrated in court.Those working in courts may receive verbal onslaught from those being tried and their families.

A case in point is “Le tla immentioner” episode whereupon the Magistrate was attacked. Those experiencing this trauma may develop depression. Some may come up with maladaptive coping methods like indulging in substance use ultimately developing substance use and addiction disorders.

Judges and Magistrates are the custodians of justice and may experience stress when making judgements. They try by all means not to make erroneous judgements which exposes them to intense mental health exhaustion.

It is very important to highlight that mental health services should also be provided to them. Some of the following can be of help;Debriefing should be done after highly toxic court cases that are emotionally draining.

Health retreats should be plannedDepression and substance use screening to identify those having problems and then assist.

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