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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




It is an open fact that people diagnosed with mental disorders sufferers a raw deal. Their rights are trampled upon willy-nilly and they as a result are subjected to human rights abuses, rampant stigma and discrimination!

The UN Human Rights office observes that people diagnosed with mental health conditions experience higher rates of poor physical health largely because of stigma and discrimination. Because of their prevailing mental health, their physical health is often neglected. We need to avail health services to all despite mental illness diagnosis!

People diagnosed with mental disorders are often deemed to be unable to take rational decisions which makes unruly individuals to trample on their rights by taking decisions on their behalf. We unceremoniously dismiss those diagnosed with mental illness from work on the basis of illness and not ability. It must be noted that mental health conditions differs and most individuals can take rational decisions. Those diagnosed with mental health conditions can be fully employed, vote and play a meaningful role in the community!

Those with mental health conditions are denied education on account of illness. We have quite a number of individuals diagnosed with mental health conditions who have been successful in their studies!

Most admissions to mental health institutions admissions are unjustifiable as some relatives manufacture stories for them to be admitted. The reasons may be that they want to go for holidays or even not wanting friends to see that they have someone with mental illness during weddings. This is grossly unfair! The following can help enforce human rights towards those diagnosed with mental disorders; Having a mental policy and legislative framework that promotes human rights and dignity(A good thing is the current Mental health Act is undergoing review to align with human rights) There is need to break the barricade of human rights abuse by bringing perpetrators to book.

Stigma is an enabler to human rights abuses and must be stopped! People with mental disorders deservedly have human rights too, uplifting their rights augurs well for their mental health!

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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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