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Research on Depression in the Workplace.

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Mental Health Matters Journal for Psychiatrists & GP's

MHM Volume 8 Issue1

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Literacy is a luxury that many of us take for granted. That is why SADAG created SPEAKING BOOKS and revolutionized the way healthcare information is delivered to low literacy communities.

The customizable 16-page book, read by local celebrity audio recordings, ensures that vital health and social messages can be seen, heard, read and understood by everyone across the world.

We started with books on Teen Suicide prevention , HIV, AIDS and Depression, Understanding Mental Health and have developed over 100+ titles, such as TB, Malaria, Polio, Vaccines for over 45 countries.

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Despite spending Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday in bed, I still have laryngitis. Probably the worst day of the week to have no voice is Mondays, as there are a greater number of callers needing help. I hate going out to see sponsors or doctors on a Monday as we need everyone to man our six telephone lines. Today was to have been an exception, but I rang our Chairman and croaked my way through the phone call to explain that I need to get my voice back for Thursday and Friday in Durban, and could we postpone our meeting. I follow up a potential suicidal call from Saturday, which I passed on to our Pretoria Regional Controller – the caller still appears to be suicidal but getting no family support at all. The Pretoria branch will work closely with her now to make sure she gets the right help and treatment.

Confirm two press stories on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – South Africa has one of the highest rates in the world. We have free medical trials for patients at the moment, and we need to tell the public. Our phones are still jammed from last Thursday’s newspaper story on Social Phobia.

GAMIAN (Global Alliance for the Mentally Ill Advocacy Network – USA) called whilst I was in Port Elizabeth last week to ask me to be the sole African Representative on their Board. Very proud – we need to liaise constantly with other countries to learn from them.

Best news of the day is that our Outreach Co-ordinator, Therry, who spends much of her time in rural areas developing new groups in townships countrywide has passed her driving test. This will give her much more freedom instead of always having to rely on a driver being available.

Tonight we have a 15 minute TV Programme on the group. Extra staff are on duty to cope with the expected influx of calls until 10 p.m.

Had a call from a very concerned member of the Tembisa community. He mentioned that they have a very high rate of suicide, and how badly it is affecting the community as a whole. He felt it is most prevalent in the adult population, and would we address the public/groups/social workers/etc. We constantly field requests for talks and presentations, but as we are a charity, we battle to find the staff and resources to fulfill every need.


Although it is a public holiday, we still have staff on duty, due to last nights Lebone TV Programme. They have a steady stream of callers, and as I still have no voice I can only give moral support to our counselors.

I am using today as an opportunity to write a proposal to Bristol-Myers Squibb USA for an additional grant to continue our Patient Education Programme in rural areas. Heard that they have US$ funds available, which we could use very effectively. Also an Agenda is needed for our forthcoming sponsors meeting which is where we update them on progress over the last three months. We have 19 Pharmaceutical sponsors who are incredible in their support and despite being competitors, the patients interests come first when they work with our group.


Leave home much earlier than usual to get to my hairdresser by 7 a.m. She very kindly comes in early for me every few weeks and puts up with my constant cell phone interruptions.

Contact Rodney at The Depression Alliance in UK to remind them that we have a counselor/journalist visiting them shortly, and to please make available all brochures, posters, pamphlets, videos, press releases that could be useful or adapted for South Africa.

Set up two further talks – we need to train more counselors in September and both Vista College and Wits Psychology Department agree to us addressing their 3rd year/honours students to recruit new counselors.

See major sponsor, Azima at 4 p.m. to decide how to maximise on South Africa’s first ever Mental Health Consumer Research Survey which compared us in South Africa to 11 other countries including UK, USA and Argentina. 400 of our members participateed. We have come out of it very mixed. Patients don’t believe they are told enough about the side effects of medication. We also have a high incidence of wrong diagnosis. On the other side we score very well if the right medication is given in that over 60% feel extremely well again. Azima decided that the information will be presented at a breakfast launch addressed by Prof. Berk and Dr. Colin. We will also involve the Director of Mental Health. Finally, she needs a talk at a function they are sponsoring next Thursday. Must find time to put something together.

At least 3 evenings a week we have educational programmes. Tonight is being addressed by a psychologist, Wendy Sinclair on our behalf to parents, teachers and counselors at Sacred Heart College. We constantly need to be finding ways to educate parents, students and teachers about the increasing Depression and suicide in adolescents, and school talks are one of the many ways we achieve this. Late home – the cats hardly stir except to nuzzle me for their treats.


Last minute packing for Durban, and my husband, Brian, accompanied by Keetah the Alsatian, (whose biggest treat is to ride in the Jeep) took us to the airport. Rene our Administrator is going with me. We load boxes with brochures, newsletters, audio and video tapes, the overhead projector and our luggage onto the plane.

On arrival we go straight to Westville Hospital. Today we are meeting a psychologist who we have only dealt with telephonically. He is one of Durbans few Behavioural Therapists. He seems very supportive of the various Durban Support Groups. Next we go to see a Psychiatrist in Durban North – she has 3 children under the age of 4 and still runs a full practice!! Amazing. There is such a shortage of Psychiatrists in South Africa – we have approximately 250 for 40 million people. As we were told when we were at Columbia University in New York recently, that is about as many as they have in their one building!

We wind up the day with Jan, our Regional Co-ordinator for Durban and her husband John for a relaxing Italian meal.

Before crashing into bed, rang one of our Regional Co-ordinators in Pretoria, as our Chairman, Prof. M. Berk was giving a talk to patients and members and I wanted to check how it had gone. As always, it was well attended and followed by plenty of questions. His schedule is as bad as mine this week – we both have several talks to do.


Restless night – I sleep very badly when we are away. We were up and downstairs in the hotel lobby by 8 a.m. to meet one of our members who is also a journalist and forever supporting our cause by writing on the many associated mental health topics for magazines countrywide.

Our first talk is at Westville in a church hall at 9:45 a.m. We arrive at 9:15 a.m. and walk straight past a hall which has about 30 people, only to return minutes later as we realise they are all early for our talk. Daytime talks are usually much quieter, but we had a tremendous response with a wide range of attendees – psychiatric nurses from Chatsworth, Social Workers, teachers as well as many members of the public. A very valid question was, “Why are GP’s not taught more about mental illness to help identify patients?” There is no clear answer, but we are already talking to third and fourth year medical students in some universities, giving them our first hand experiences of various mental illnesses. That satisfies him somewhat.

Back to Westville Hospital to see another Psychiatrist who recommends us to all her patients. She believes there is so little in the way of support for mental health patients, and at least ours is caring and non-judgemental, and best of all it’s free! Medical Aids she tells us are making more cut backs on both psychiatry and psychology expenses. There is no doubt that will be our next lobbying issue and probably next years main project.

No time for lunch – delivering pictures to a magazine in Mobeni for a future article. Made a quick call to the Johannesburg office only to find the counselors who should have been on the road to Kimberley an hour ago haven’t left – we have a major doctors talk in Kimberley by Dr. Els this evening, and I don’t want them to be late. The following morning, we are starting groups in the black, white and coloured areas, simultaneously, so have to have 3 different speakers. Each one is at a separate location in town.

Back to the hotel – try all three restaurants and snack bar – its 4 p.m. and I’m hungry. Nothing at all is open which leaves us with very unappetising room service. Why is it that in America I can eat at any time of the day not just the times that suit the hotel and restaurant industry?

Get lost on the way to the evening meeting at the Natal Technikon. Desolate when we arrived, so expected very quiet turnout, but 5 minutes to seven they stream in, including Psychologists, journalists, teachers and patients. Great audience with many questions on medication, its effects and success rate. Leave at nearly 9 p.m. Head for real food, but Durban’s beachfront has died – not a seafood restaurant open, even the Hilton had only one restaurant – no à la carte and a very tired looking buffet. Settled for ribs at a steakhouse. Rang Kimberley – they had about 55 doctors at the educational meeting and needed extra seats and food.


Slept better and ready early. As always we arrive to find Jan has everything organised, microphone, tape, overhead, etc. Around 50 – 60 people with a lot of teenagers suffering from various mental illnesses. We really need a teenage group in Durban – Jan will ask one of the Psychology honours students who attended if she will consider hosting a group once a fortnight. Two executives from Toyota are there to offer more help and support to the Natal group and asked if we would address their Employee Relations Executives so that they can identify Depression, Panic and Social Phobia in the workplace quicker and recommend treatment options.

Collapse at the airport waiting to board our flight. Brian and Keetah the dog pick me up in Johannesburg, but work still isn’t finished with me. On the way back from Kimberley, the car has broken down and now all 3 counselors are stuck just outside Potchefstroom. No car hire companies are still open at 6:30 p.m. and Yasaar’s father very kindly offers to drive out and fetch them, which I really appreciate. I will worry about the car on Monday.


Woken by the cats trying to scratch the door down – one is a very large, aggressive Bengal who then proceeds to beat up the smaller Abyssinian. Usually, no make up, no friends, no socialising on Sundays - it’s my day off from people apart from my usual dash for groceries. However, today had to call at the Jabula Centre in Glenhazel where we have been asked to put up a stand on Depression and Panic. I meet two of our counselors there – Julie and Kirsty, who have had lots of interest and given out many pamphlets and newsletters.

Even on Sunday evening there are still callers who somehow find my home telephone number and need referring. The last one of the day is a Pretoria caller with panic disorder who needs a group in the Centurion area.

To bed early and my favourite relaxation which is to watch sitcoms, surrounded by the cats. Last thoughts are on how behind I am with all the paperwork and talks for next week.


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