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Mental Health Series

UNDERSTANDING “MIDLIFE CRISIS”

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In a recent engagement, an issue was brought up in reference to many in the 40s whom are behaving somewhat abnormally. One cited example was the one of a 42 year old whom suddenly became fashion conscious going along with the current trends and clubbing endlessly!

Many were of the view that such individuals should be classified as having a mental health disorder whilst others were of the view that it is inconsequential and it is only people putting themselves under pressure with unachievable targets.

The sudden behaviour and habit change can be alluded to the phenomena “midlife crisis.” It is life transition stage occurring at around the ages of 40 which in women is often linked to menopause. During this phase you practically have no one to mentor or coach you and everything is upon you.

Constant regret and feelings of failure take centre stage as many will look at the prospects of retiring soon yet have nothing to show for many years worked! It is characterised by changing your entire life in a haste trying to compensate for the past failures.

Individuals experience a decline in career prospects, have self-doubt over the future, have increased physical problems and have increased fear of aging (some literally dye hair). Other manifestation may include the following;

Job changes(venturing into a different job altogether)
Poor interpersonal relations
Marital problems
Adoption of strange lifestyle

The consequence of this may result in excessive use of alcohol and other substances. There may be also incidences of anxiety and depression as a result of this transition.

Whilst this is not a mental disorder per se, psychological counselling maybe of help to those whom may be overwhelmed by the transition especially those with depression and abusing substances.

What is paramount though is that we should all be content with what we have and have achieved, also have realistic set targets for the future. Age should never determine success or failure!

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Mental Health Series

INTERNATIONAL NURSES DAY: REFLECTING ON THE MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES OF NURSES

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Today’s reflection will be on the Nurses’’ day that was celebrated worldwide on the 12th of May. The day is celebrated in remembrance of the birth Florence Nightingale who is the pioneer of modern day professional nursing. The theme for this year is “Nurses: A voice to lead-Health for All.”

Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system as in every health care facility they are there to provide care. They are the single largest group of professionals in the clinical field.
The crux of the discussion is that professional nurses experience burnout and workplace stress because of the nature of the demands of the nursing job. These emanate from working long hours, emotional exhaustion from dealing with vulnerable and ailing clientele, experience of traumatic events, fulfilment of high professional and public expectations and low reward outcomes for their efforts.

The nurses’ already volatile ordeal is further compounded by incidences of nurses being assaulted, emotionally abused, physically abused, sexually assaulted and cyber bullied by the same individuals that they seek to render care for.

The above highlighted challenges can be emotionally draining to the nurses and even facilitate development of mental health problems if they are not attended to promptly. This has been affirmed by various studies.

A review paper done by Vasconcelos and others in 2016 highlighted that the risk of exposure to HIV and poor relationships with administrators as other associated factors that facilitated development of mental disorders.

The review found the following as affecting most of our nurses; post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress reaction, generalised anxiety disorder, depression and over indulgence in substances.
Nursing managers, the patients as well members of the community need to play a pivotal role in ensuring protective factors towards nurses’ mental health are availed.

The good thing is that this can be ensured by helping nurse build resilience, having debriefing sessions for nurses working in trauma care and having measures like retreats to name but a few. Nurses need to be healthy for them to be custodians for “health for all”.

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Mental Health Series

WHAT WE EAT CAN AFFECT OUR MENTAL HEALTH

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I had a chat with friend over the weekend and he felt that dieticians placed at psychiatric hospitals are misplaced. The basis of today discussion will be herein a response to this.

Nutrition does play a critical role in mental health hence the need for dieticians to be involved in this field as it is the case now. As noted by the research team led by Joseph Firth, “nutritional deficiencies resulting from insufficient intake of nutrients critical to human health are a risk factor for psychiatric and mental disorders.”

Our brains needs food for them to function optimally. Concentration, memory, analysing to name but a few can all be attained by a “well fed brain.” If the brain is deprived of nutrients, it can incur oxidative stress which results in brain cell damage. Brain cells are irreplaceable and their damage facilitates the development of some mental disorders Experience of mental health problems may also be associated with poorer diet and physical health.

Poor nutrition has been implicated in the onset of schizophrenia by various research findings. Studies on schizophrenia patients indicated that the nutrients Zinc and Selenium were found to be compromised whilst in others there was insufficient Vitamin D deficiency.

Other research conducted has determined that the following supplements: zinc, magnesium, omega 3, and vitamins B and D3 are essential in elevating people’s mood, relieving anxiety and depression. Insufficient Omega-3 fatty acids has additionally been linked to low mood, poor concentration, cognitive decline and poor comprehension.

It is clear from the discussion that good nutrition is critical for our mental health and that dieticians are relevant in mental health. An affordable balanced diet which contains the essential nutrients is necessary to be taken to ensure that mental health is uplifted. Nutrition alone cannot ensure our mental but it has a significant adjunctive role. As posited by local author Lindo Morolong, “what you feed your body shapes your health.”

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