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Fortunately, awareness about mental health and illness is  gaining momentum and the ways of viewing people’s experiences is evolving. That’s why Professor Christopher Paul Szabo believes diagnosis and treatment should both be part of a conversation between patient and doctor that bears in mind our different beliefs and backgrounds.

In his conversation with Gisele Wertheim Aymes, he speaks on extending to a podcast formed with his new show, Beyond Madness, which involves conversations about psychiatry and mental health, including myths and stigma.

Breaking Boundaries With Psychiatry

The podcast  Beyond Madness on Cliff Central debuted with the first podcast focusing on psychiatry in a cross-cultural setting. Szabo said through Beyond Madness, he wanted to explore the depths of psychiatry with listeners and professionals.

“I realized there’s a certain stigma attached to the word “madness” or could be and certainly in psychiatry. We don’t speak about mad individuals or mad patients. We speak about patients. Our patients are mentally ill. So, in a sense, Beyond Madness was about having conversations with fellow psychiatrists about psychiatry.

Not specifically about the stereotypical views necessary for psychiatrists or psychiatric patients. But I want to take you a little bit behind the scenes regarding how psychiatrists think about psychiatry”.

Mental health stigma

Historically, mental illness is a subject that is often met with discomfort and fear. As a result, the world of psychiatry, unless a person has seen a psychiatrist, or knows someone who has, is often met with these same feelings of skepticism.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors, who specialize in treating mental illnesses after medical school. Unlike psychotherapists and psychologists, they can prescribe medication, treat physical complications, and in extreme circumstances.

“The idea that psychiatry simply prescribes medicine or confines you to an institution without your will these are stereotypes, which I understand Hollywood is coming from and makes good viewing but the truth of the matter is that’s not how or what the discipline is about.

 I think that the idea that we in any way exploit or impose think has to be dispelled. We work very collaboratively with our patients and I think there’s a very conscious awareness that we work with very vulnerable individuals”.

Do I have a mental illness?

Mental illness is a physical illness of the brain. It causes disturbances in thinking, behaviour, energy or emotion that make it difficult to cope with the ordinary demands of life.

Research is starting to uncover the complicated causes of these diseases. This can include genetics, brain chemistry, brain structure, experiencing trauma and/or having another medical condition, like heart disease.


Granted, the general perception of mental illness has improved over the past decades. However, studies show that stigma against mental illness is still powerful.


This is largely due to media stereotypes and lack of education. People tend to attach negative stigmas to mental health conditions at a far higher rate than to other diseases and disabilities, such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease.

“The importance of mental health has been something that has been spoken about, but the truth of the matter is: there are words and there’s action. I think that we don’t necessarily see the kind of funding for the necessary resources to fully service the needs that exist in the community”.

Professor Szabo encourages people who experience early signs of psychological distress like insomnia, irritability, lack of interest in pleasurable activities or even self-care, seek help from professionals.

Watch The Video

The video interview contains the full dialogue of this interview, and you can watch it below.



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Thapelo Mowela

Thapelo Mowela is a freelance writer and content producer with a passion for people and their stories. She began her career at the SABC  as one of the producers for a news show. Her job entails, producing , coming up with content and scripting for the news anchors, organizing guest, shooting inserts, voicing inserts and editing. She also gained experience in radio, when she worked as a content producer at Touch HD online. She currently writes fitness and lifestyle columns for a few newspapers. She fell in love with fitness and wants to share with other, ways to better their lifestyles.  In her spare time she’s hiking, travelling, or reading .

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

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