Stigmatisation of mental health disorders leads to a decreased quality of life, says the South African Depression and Anxiety Group. Supplied
Not feeling like going out or are you staying in bed all day and doing the bare minimum? This may sound really bizarre, but it’s a reality for many people living with mental illness.

For Lilo Gumede*, 25, life has been a “constant battle” just to be okay every day. Gumede was diagnosed with depression four years ago, but she has been coping thanks to prescribed medication.

“I’m a bubbly person, but I have days where I just don’t want to talk, and just want to stay at home and do nothing.”

“The worst thing about it is that people label me as moody, attention-seeking and high maintenance. So it’s just easy for me to stay at home and hide behind doors when that happens.

October is recognised as Mental Health Awareness Month, aimed at reducing the increasing depression rate in South Africa.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) says stigmatisation of mental health disorders leads to a decreased quality of life, missed opportunities and lost independence for the affected individual.

Dr Larissa Panieri-Peter is a forensic psychiatrist and says it’s important to create a safe space at all times when dealing with those diagnosed with mental health (issues).

“Taking away guns, places that they can have easy access to hang themselves and talking to the people may be a safer option.”

While many may, like Gumede, choose to stay indoors when they are not feeling well and not talk to anyone, experts warn against that.

According to research done by Harvard’s Medical School, staying cooped up indoors is not only bad for your physical health, but mental health too.

These days most of us spend our days inside, denying our bodies of vitamin D, which may provide some protection against depression.

Abdurahman Kenny, Central Nervous System Portfolio Manager at Pharma Dynamics, says the growing incidence of depression and anxiety worldwide implies that there are other factors too that make modern-day society more vulnerable to mental illness.

Kenny says exposure to sunlight increases the brain’s production of serotonin - a hormone associated with an elevated mood. “By just spending 10 to 15 minutes outside with our arms and legs exposed to the sun (without sunscreen), is enough for our bodies to produce the required amount of vitamin D.

“Our indoor lifestyle has led to more than a billion people across the globe being vitamin D deficient - even in the sunnier parts of the world, such as Australia, more than a third are deficient. Evidence shows that a lack of vitamin D increases the likelihood of depression by up to 14% and suicide by 50%, so be sure to make safe sun exposure - either in the morning or late afternoons a habit,” he remarks.

He also encourages the public to follow a healthy, balanced diet, getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol intake, spending quality time with friends and family, and making time for hobbies and interests, which all contribute to a healthy mental outlook.

* Not her real name