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Mental Health Series

‘A resource letter to a caregiver’



In view of this year Mental Health Day theme “ Young People and Mental health in a changing world”, one reader appealed to me to talk to parents whom have youthful children diagnosed with mental illness.

Dear Parents;
I must applaud you for acknowledging that indeed there is an issue to be addressed. Indeed the caregiving role comes with many challenges that include neglect of own needs as well stigma and discrimination meted out by our society.

Mental illnesses can affect anyone in our society; including youth. According to the World Health Organisation, 10-20% of children and adolescents experience mental disorders. Neuropsychiatric disorders are seen as the leading cause of disability in the young generation. Youth are not immune from mental illnesses!

Do not at all blame yourself for the situation your child is facing. It is scientifically proven that mental illnesses are caused by a combination of factors that include environmental and genetics. There are a lot of challenges faced by the youth that facilitate the development of mental illness and/or problems.

In spite of all this, there should be concerted focus on family. A family is a system and efforts should be made to allow interconnectedness that has often taken the family forward. To ensure a productivity on the side of patient, remove restrictions and allow utmost interactions with others socially.

Always give support to your child to take medication. Medication helps a lot in stabilising patient allowing for optimal functioning. Taking medications also helps mitigate against the development of chronicity of illness.

You are bound to hear conspiracy theories and myths surrounding the child illness. Inform yourself and also seek information from mental health professionals and refrain from information that can compound the problem even further.

Go for time out and debriefing sessions to recharge batteries of care giving. Individual counselling can also help if overwhelmed by the situation to the extent of affecting daily functioning.
As posited by Robert Ingersoll, “we rise by lifting others.” Thank you.

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Mental Health Series




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




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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