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Mental Health Series

Addressing bullying in schools



I came across a news story online from ABC News that a nine year old boy committed suicide following bullying. The boy had disclosed being gay which culminated in him being bullied by fellow schoolmates. The central point of today’s discussion is bullying and its ramifications.

Have you seen kids refusing to head for classes for lame reasons? They could be experiencing bullying. Bullying is a phenomena that is rampant in our schools. It is a destructive and deliberate pattern of humiliating and harming others whom are vulnerable. The act of bullying happens consistently with victims most of the time being helpless to fight.

Those who bully can do it in so many ways that include;
Kids being punched
Their things being spoiled
Kids being teased
Nasty rumours spread about the victim
Victims being threatened
Victims being coerced to bring gifts

According to one study, those whom are bullied are at an increased risk for mental health problems, headaches, and problems adjusting to school. Others maybe sad and lonely and have tendencies of absconding from or being anxious when summoned to go to school. The commonest mental health problems include depression, parasuicide, conversion disorders and substance use disorders. A long term damage to self-esteem is possible in these circumstances.

Dealing with a child who is being bullied is difficult. Parents and guardians should avoid at all costs to blame the child for being bullied. Active listening is a basic tenet to help the child. A child who is bullied often finds it difficult to tell people thereby it is important to listen and try to address the issue.

Our school system need to have anti-bullying programmes and also employ resident mental health professionals to address this problem. As Michelle Obama once said, “we explain when someone is cruel or ac ts like a bully, you do not stoop to their level.” Let’s address this!

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Mental Health Series

The effects of dagga on mental health



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:
panic attacks
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



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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