When she was still a grade 6 young girl going to a local primary school in Marapyane village. She lost her paternal grandfather as a result of something that did not make sense, she asked her mother and elders these “uncomfortable” questions as to what caused death, especially those people who were not sick but one day they took their own lives. Mental illness is a sickness which comes in many forms, this moth we will be looking at depression and look at the causes thereof. May being mental health month, The Village Mag saw it fitting to be in conversation with Dr Lydia Masenya-Maodi, a Specialist Psychiatrist working full time in private practice based in Pretoria, Gauteng Province and Hartebeespoort in the North West. She has been a medical practitioner for over a decade now.
“Depression is primarily a mood disorder, when you are suffering with depression the problem is that you are not able to regulate your mood” remarked Dr L Masenya-Maodi when asked to define depression. A patient suffering from this disease tends to feel down more often than a normal person, and its causes are multi-sectorial, the low mood is usually accompanied by 5 or more of the following symptoms:
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame;
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things,
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicides, etc.
Dr Lydia identifies main causes of depression especially in the rural areas of our country 1. Social causes, these are primarily rooted in the high poverty rate resulting from the sky-rocketing unemployment rate. Also there is the issue of low education level, physical and emotional abuse and many other civil challenges in the rural areas which contribute highly to this which makes an individual feel worthless. Other deepened causes of depression are 2. Biological causes – there are systems in our brains which regulate how an individual feels (mood swings), there are certain chemicals which regulate our moods. According to the good Dr, this is beyond anybody’s control. So in a nutshell a combination of both social and biological cause which may eventually lead someone into a severe state of depression.
Asked whether the villages, within the region of Mathanjane (formerly Moretele) when Marapyane is located in particular are doing enough to teach and be taught about this silent killer that is depression. She said during her time while she based in the village full time, little education was offered to teach the young and old about mental health and illnesses associated thereof but now she has seen that there are programs offered by the Social Development Department which would send Social Workers to schools to interact and teach learners about this mental illnesses and ways to identify and mitigate the signs. Soccer is still the biggest sports in our villages, through these tournaments, some organizers always try to improve the knowledge pool of these young ones about the dangers of mental illness as well drugs and substance abuse. These are some but few programs that Dr Lydia Masenya-Maodi has seen which our villages are doing to learn more about depression. She emphasised the need for people especially professionals from our villages to come together to bring resources together to help educate our communities. Awareness campaigns through the media including social media platforms to teach about the dangers of drugs and substance abuse, mental illnesses and their negative impacts on one’s life.
“Men are the weakest link when it comes to their health in general, when it comes to mental health they are the worst” said Dr Masenya-Maodi when asked who between men and women take up therapy as part of their personal health. And that is the reason why when you look at the suicide rates, men always commit suicide the highest. This is because women never shy away to ask for help. The patriarchal system in our villages perpetuates this problem, this is because in a patriarchal system – the society assumes men to be the head of the house/society and descent is looked through the male line – this means that the men cannot feel pain or that he cannot show emotions because these are signs of weakness. Unfortunately many young boys are raised in these types of households which then lead to suicides when the “load” becomes too much to carry as they are taught to “suck it up” and deal with their problems “like a man”. She emphasised that men need to take up therapy seriously like their female counterparts.
In closing the Specialist Therapist, Dr Masenya-Maodi said that there are fewer psychiatrist in South Africa, a 1000 give or take so statistically speaking in a country with a population of just under 60 million officially (these number is more of course considering other factors such as undocumented immigrants). So as a country we need more people trained to carry out this very important special field within the medical fraternity.
Click here to listen to the rest of our conversation with Dr Lydia Masenya-Maodi discussing depression and suicide.