MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS (Focus: Stress, Anxiety and Depression) By Bro. Sam Odeleye

Bro Samuel Odeleye

MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS

(Focus: Stress, Anxiety and Depression) By Bro. Sam Odeleye

More than 80% of diseases worldwide are stress related disorders. The general level of worry and unhappiness in the modern world is creating a global epidemic of stress. No wonder, the World Health Organisation, has declared stress as the health epidemic of the 21st century. Work, career life, family pressures, deadlines, road traffic and the rat race for better life are all stressful factors that have negative impact on our physical and mental health.

What is stress? Stress is a physical and psychological response to sudden changes in our body or physical environment.  In a stressful situation, the body reacts in what is called ‘fight or fight mode’. Chemical changes in the body cause the release of adrenaline hormone which prepares a person for physical action, known as the fight. Alternatively, the hormone prepares a person to run or take a “flight” to survive such as when a person is driving and had to suddenly slam on the car brakes. Stress can either be an ongoing sense of worry or a response to life events such as getting married; having your first child or preparing for an examination. Stress affects everyone. It is however, more common in women than in men and more prevalent in married than single women. Stress can develop into anxiety.  Uncontrolled, long term anxiety can result in depression. Precipitating factors of depression include bereavement, divorce, business failures, unemployment, physical disability or financial challenges.

Common symptoms of stress and anxiety include heart problems, breathing problems, restlessness, muscle tension, headaches, lack of sleep, anger, decreased concentration and low productivity, tiredness, stomach discomfort (“butterflies”), diabetes, cold and flu. However, symptoms of depression are a bit more intense:  feeling of sadness, hopelessness, low self-esteem guilt, agitation accompanied by social withdrawal, diminished interest in everyday activities, reduced sexual drive, suicidal thoughts and the feeling of losing your mind.

Management of Stress, Anxiety and Depression (SAD) requires multi faced approach and interventions.

  • The first recommended approach is regular exercise, such as walking at least 30 minutes per day. The following tips are very helpful: Relaxation activity such as sleeping for at least 7 to 8 hours every day, eating a healthy and balanced diet with high antioxidant multivitamins supplements, staying connected with your social networks of friends, family, and church members. Staying connected with family and friends is necessary for emotional care and support. Avoid intake of harmful body pollutants such as cigarette and alcoholic beverages.
  • The second approach is psychotherapy. This involve counselling with cognitive behavioral techniques conducted by a professional psychologist or credentialed family and relationship therapist.
  • This is usually the last resort. This involves the intake of medicines prescribed by a registered medical practitioner.

Mental Health and the Christian Faith.  In the book of Psalm 43: 5, David expressed a form of depression when he wrote “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me” and his antidote against this depression was to put his trust in God, his Savior and God. In the book of Lamentation, some of Prophet Jeremiah’s thoughts were borne out of depression. Prophet Elijah, overtaken by fear, fell into despondency and discouragement (both forms of depression) following the threat of Jezebel .The permanent cure for stress and related mental health conditions are shown in Bible references below (list is inexhaustive):

  1. Do not worry or be anxious about anything. Cast your burdens on Jesus (Philippians 4:6, 1 Pet 5:7). Trust and keep on trusting God for daily provision. (Matthew 6:25-34). By faith in God, one can overcome worries and heaviness of the heart. Be contended with what you have. (1 Tim 6:6)
  2. Study, meditate and obey the Word of God for physical and spiritual health (Proverb 3:8). We must however, avoid any type of meditative exercise that encourages any form of mind blankness.
  3. Seek deliverance prayers (not exorcism) from true ministers of God. The prayer of the faith will set the captives free from demonic oppression and depression.

When there is proper planning and you have also prayed for guidance on matters; there is no need to stress. Do your best; and commit the rest into God’s able hands. Have faith in God. (Mk 11:22).

References:

Pharmacotherapy: A Guide to Clinical Pharmacy: by Oppel Greeff 

Christian Counselling by Gary Collins

South African Federation of Mental Health (www.safmh.org.za)

Hospital level Standard Treatment Guidelines and Essential Medicines; NDoH. South Africa

World Health Organisation (www.who.int/health)

American Psychology Association (www.apa.org)

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