Depression in South Africa - Learn More & Get Help With Online Therapy

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In South Africa, as in many parts of the world, depression is a common mental health challenge affecting countless lives. This article delves into the nuances of depression, the availability of help through online therapy and more. Discover how you or your loved ones can access the support and guidance needed. 

Meet Tshego, one of our mental health experts.

Meet Tshegofatso Motsubele, one of our mental health professionals. Tshego, as she prefers to be called, holds a Bachelor of Psychology (BPsych) from the Pearson Institute of Higher Education. She is driven by a passion for mental health and improving the well-being and happiness of South Africans. 

Tshego's specialities include emotional awareness, trauma and crisis management, self-development, relationship concerns, social adjustment, life skills, and managing stress and burnout. 

Read on to find out more about depression in South Africa with Tshego.

What exactly is depression?

Depression is a form of mental illness that negatively affects how you feel,  think and behave. Depression causes prolonged feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, hampering your ability to function in everyday life.  

Depression is a manifestation of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Serotonin is a "happy chemical" in our brain. Picture it like this: everyone has a bucket of serotonin, although due to genetics, some people may have a naturally low level. Below a certain level in the bucket, you will experience depression. When something good happens to you, it puts serotonin in your bucket; when something bad happens to you, it takes serotonin out. 

Now, imagine you have naturally low levels of serotonin. When something bad happens to you, it will quickly take you over the depression threshold, whereas it won't do that for someone with naturally higher levels. Sometimes, the serotonin can be topped up again with therapy, medication, etc, and then the person recovers. 

Imagine you were born with a bucket with a hole in it. Your bucket is slowly leaking serotonin, but you do your best to fill that bucket, and you can keep that serotonin at the same level. When something bad happens to you, it takes serotonin out of the bucket and puts you under the threshold for depression - AND your bucket is still leaking. This will result in a longer duration of therapy because it will take a while to get the levels back up and fix the hole in the bucket. This results in a more chronic condition called a major depressive disorder.

What are the main symptoms of depression?

The main symptom of depression is persistent sadness lasting for more than a month. 

Other common symptoms include:

  • Feeling apathetic, where you have no enjoyment or interest in previously enjoyable activities. 
  • Feeling fatigued or lethargic. 
  • Feeling irritable or angry towards family, friends, loved ones, or situations. 
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping too much or too little. 
  • Changes in appetite, such as eating too little or too much. 
  • Persistently neglecting one's hygiene and the cleanliness of one's surroundings. 
  • Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm. 
  • Feelings of hopelessness or reduced self-worth.  
  • Abusing or depending on substances to feel better; this could be drugs or alcohol.
  • Loss of memory, trouble focusing or concentrating

What are the leading causes of depression in South Africa?

Depression in South Africa, as in any other country, often arises from a complex interplay of environmental, genetic and psychological factors. Common causes include; 

Environmental causes

  • Exposure to traumatic events such as crime or violence.
  • Financial stress and strain.
  • The loss of loved ones, jobs, or homes. 
  • Loadshedding is a relatively recent phenomenon. Prolonged power outages can disrupt work and family, causing strain in day-to-day life.
  • Highly pressurised or stressful working environments

Genetic causes

  • A history of mental health disorders in the family.
  • Alterations in brain chemistry may contribute to depressive symptoms. 
  • Some medical conditions can precipitate depression. 

Psychological causes 

  • Social media pressure is a growing concern. These platforms can amplify the comparison of one's life to those of others, leading to dissatisfaction with one's appearance, relationships, lifestyle, etc. 
  • A decision to misuse alcohol or drugs can exacerbate symptoms. This can lead to a cycle where those already experiencing depression turn to substances for comfort and escape, potentially exacerbating the issue. 

Who is best to speak to about depression?

If you suspect you are experiencing depression, it’s important to seek help. You should speak to a registered GP or mental health professional such as a counsellor, therapist or psychologist. They are best placed to advise on the appropriate treatment plan. 

At Kena Health, we employ registered mental health professionals who can provide you with therapy from the comfort and privacy of your phone. 

Can you get diagnosed and treated for depression online?

Yes. A registered mental health professional can diagnose depression through proven tools and screening questions. Based on the patient's answers, mental health professionals can understand the severity of depression a patient is experiencing and determine the appropriate treatment plan. Treatment plans may include psychological treatment or therapy and, in some cases, medication. 

How do I book an online consultation with a therapist?

The Kena Health mental health app offers access to registered therapists 7 days a week; no appointments are needed. Simply download, register and consult in minutes. 

Thank you, Tshego!

It was interesting to explore mental therapy with Tshego, and we look forward to talking with Tshego about other mental health topics in the future.

Download the Kena Health mental health app now.

The app is affordable and user-friendly, allowing you to contact registered mental health professionals who provide online therapy and counselling. 

Remember that placing your mental well-being first is crucial, and whether it's in-person or online therapy, it's a significant step toward a happier, healthier you.

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