Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
With the goal of assisting Newcastillians, the Newcastle-based Dr Londeka Mnikathi chats with us about Mental Health Awareness month. A topic often pushed to one side in society, according to the doctor.
Dr Mnikathi qualified as a specialist psychiatrist in 2014 from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Explaining how she views mental health, Dr Mnikathi says that “it helps us to relate to ourselves as people and how we relate to others in our environment.” Therefore, if one is emotionally healthy, “then one has a specific way of looking at oneself, as well as a specific way of looking at their environment, comprised of people.”
Moreover, on its increased importance, the doctor emphasises, “To some extent it has become as important as physical health. It has always been as important as physical health, but I think in recent years with the pandemic, it has become more obvious.”
Digging a bit deeper into the topic, Dr Mnikathi says that it is important to note, that our emotional well-being could have detrimental effects on our physical health, if we do not pay attention to it.
Noting that stress, depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders play a prominent role in the communities served by Mediclinic Newcastle, Dr Mnikathi clarified that it was over-the-counter medications and not necessarily illicit drugs which are the main problem. As pointed out by the doctor, this includes the abuse of pain relief medications and cough syrups.
With those using over-the-counter medications, Dr Mnikathi says that people often self-medicate for extended periods of time—using high dosages for ailments that have underlying mental health issues.
“If you for instance take something containing codine, it affects the brain and offers temporary good feelings and offers a sense of relief from the stress or depression that you might be experiencing.” But, the side effects and potential danger are extremely concerning.
When looking at the main contributing factors of stress, anxiety and depression in Newcastle, Dr Mnikathi says the following factors continue to be highlighted:
- The pandemic
- Job loss
- Loss of loved ones.
- Escalating cost of living not matching people’s incomes.
According to Dr Mnikathi, all of these have impacted people’s sense of purpose. “That alone, can lead to depression,” she adds.
Sadly, as affirmed by the doctor, in a day and age filled with information, there are still fallacies surrounding mental health.
“There is a huge misconception, which is largely created by past histories of mental health. Which are obviously perpetuated by what continues to be shown on media, especially when they talk about institutions and the showing of people with mental illness.”
General images of mental health also add to the misconceptions, as the content often shows the extreme cases of this extensive topic and not issues such as anxiety or depression. “Another big misconception around mental illness, is that a person is not resilient to deal with stress. This means that if you are diagnosed with a mental illness, you are weak,” she adds.
Furthermore, Dr Mnikathi points out that there are Newcastillians who believe that if they have a mental illness, they will be given high dosages of medication and multiple drugs, all of which will impact their mind negatively. However, these are all outdated, incorrect perceptions of an extremely vast medical sector.
With the above-mentioned in mind, the doctor says that it is essential for people to focus more on their emotional well-being and treat it with much significance.
“The moment you notice any changes in your emotional state, the minute you feel sad, the minute you feel irritable, the moment you feel anxious, suffer from sleep disruptions and low energy levels, you must know there is a change.” By noting the changes in one’s mental health, the doctor states that the correct medical steps can be taken to address the issues, large or small.
Mediclinic Newcastle and Dr Mnikathi conclude by saying that you are important and taking your mental health seriously will have positive effects in yours and your family’s lives.
This post and content is sponsored and provided by Mediclinic Southern Africa – Newcastle.