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:
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.
LGBTI+ POPULATION AND MENTAL HEALTH
Our previous discussion was centred on women as a vulnerable group to mental health problems and we will this week focus on the lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) population; another vulnerable group.
According to American Psychiatric Association, LGBTI people are more than twice as likely to develop mental disorder in their lifetime. Various research done has shown that depression and anxiety are the most common mental disorders among LGBTI community and they are 2.5 times more likely to experience them than the rest of the population.
In addition, the LGBTI people are more at risk of suicidal behaviour and self-harm and also gay and bisexual men are four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual population. There has also been reported high substance use among LGBTI community compared to the rest of the population.
These statistics clearly highlight the grave situation that the LGBTI individuals are facing. A risk factor to the occurrence of mental disorders is the rampant stigma and discrimination on the LGBTI community. A study in Britain schools, did reveal that they experience homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. Because of the prejudice, many fail to open up about their sexual orientation which is a factor that strongly facilitates development of mental illnesses.
The high rate of substance misuse could be attributed to trying to cope with the prejudice and discrimination. There has been reported inaccessibility to health services by LGBTI communities which may impact the address of their mental health issues. Studies have shown that they have an affinity to using health services hence it is ideal to holistically avail them.
Instead of focusing on our differences in diversity, the focus should be on finding the best practices and support for diverse populations including LGBTI. It is an open fact that stigma and discrimination facilitates development of mental illnesses or perpetuates existing ones thus the need to reflect as a society!
WOMEN AND MENTAL HEALTH
March the 8th marked the International Women’s Day under the theme ‘balance for better”. “The Mental Health Series” would like to glorify all women and bring to the fore pertinent issues in relation to their mental health.
Women to a greater extent are affected by mental health problems more than men. Notably depression and anxiety are the commonest mental disorders that affect women. According to the World Health Organisation, depressive disorders account for close to 41.9% of disability from neuropsychiatric disorders among women compared to 29.3% of men.
Apart from gender specific determinants, a lot of socio-economic factors make women susceptible to having mental health problems. Women incur pressures from their many roles especially as single parents in many of the households. Gender discrimination in the workplace and political sphere, violence in various forms, sexual abuse, income inequality and poverty all account for the development of mental illness in women. Women also experience bullying in social media which as well can lead to lead to mental illness.
We all need to acknowledge the risk factors to mental illness that are peculiar to women and find ways to mitigate against them. Women often find it essential to seek health services and thus need to be encouraged to continue the feat as that will go a long way in helping women. We indeed need to balance for better the programmes that can empower women and serve as protective barriers from development of mental illness.
Women should have equal opportunities for economic growth, jobs and enabled to lead as that will augur well for their mental health. A worrisome issue in sport is the income inequality which renders women as inferior; has to be addressed as a matter of urgency!
There is need to nurture the mental health of women. It is nigh men reflect and do away with gender based violence. The effects of violence are far reaching hence the need to change for upliftment of mental health.
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