Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But mental health concerns can become a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and impact your ability to function.
Longevity’s Gisèle Wertheim Aymes spoke to founder and editor-in-chief of South African Psychiatry Professor Christopher Paul Szabo about the second season of his popular podcast series called Beyond Madness.
This novel series explores all facets of psychiatry and mental health in audio format. What makes this show different is that it features psychiatrists and other mental health specialists together in conversation. The interactive format makes for fascinating and informative listening.
Beyond Madness places psychiatry real-time in your living room
Psychiatry is a fascinating discipline and sharing insights will not only enhance the field amongst professionals but help demystify as well as address preconceptions about this medical discipline. Szabo hopes that Beyond Madness is also providing insights to third parties like friends and family who are affected by psychiatric challenges.
You don’t have to be crazy or desperate to see a psychiatrist
Contrary to popular misconception, you don’t have to be “crazy,” desperate, or on the brink of a meltdown to go to a psychiatrist. At the same time, this isn’t usually necessary for every little struggle life throws your way, especially if you have a strong support system of friends and family. So, how do you know when it’s time to see a professional psychiatrist?
Mental illness also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking, and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors.
A mental illness can make you miserable and can cause problems in your daily life, such as at school or work, or in relationships. In most cases, symptoms can be managed.
“We have a biopsychosocial approach in terms of how we understand mental illness, and also in terms of how we treat mental illness. I think that requires us to be much more than simply prescribers of medication because medication is one part of a potential solution. In any given situation. I think that there are many more aspects to mental illness and many more.” Says Professor Szabo.
Seeing a professional
Professor Szabo explains, “Because each person has a different level of tolerance, resilience. Every single psychiatric diagnosis comes with two specific riders, and it must be distressing.
“A person is experiencing distress, and dysfunction, is not functioning as they should. So, I think, you know, once you’re moving into that kind of area, what you’ve experienced as being different about yourself is distressing to you. If it’s causing you to not function, then it’s time to get professional help. It doesn’t necessarily have to start with a rush to the psychiatrist’s office or to the psychologist’s office. You could just start with a conversation with somebody who’s close to you to tease things out? “
Accessible patient care
If this does not move you into a better space, then you should get professional help. Choosing the right support is important.
“It’s important to understand that when you go and see a psychiatrist, everything that they say to you in terms of how they understand what is going on with you must be understood by you. So, therefore, the language that I use, in communicating with my patients, must be accessible. You should never leave my office thinking, “What on earth did he just tell me? Because that would be an absolute failure of an intervention or a consultation”.
Patient care must be paramount
Patients have families, friends, and colleagues – all of whom are impacted by patient well-being. In this sense, patients impact communities and society at large, Professor Szabo adds, “it is important that if you are experiencing challenges, it helps if those who are in your support system, understand them too.”
“I think it’s very important because, at the end of the day, that support system is critical. And so, they, too, need to be supported. They, too, need to understand. And so that is why the accessibility of information is so important, and being able to communicate in a way. And I always make it very clear to my patient.”
Beyond Madness and other online series and platforms
With the growth in digital media and also telehealth, there are more accessible avenues to access treatment for mental health. Szabo says online psychiatry is becoming more popular. It can be a useful support to link you to the help you require from the comfort of your home. It helps many avoid the difficulty of commuting to an office, finding childcare support, or taking time off from work to see a mental health professional. However, he believes it is still more ideal for both parties to have face-to-face sessions.
“Ideally you want the patient in the room with you as body language and facial expression provide cues. The quality of communication in psychiatry is very important in the mental health”.
Taking charge of your mental health
The podcast series is informative only. Szabo says patient care must be at the center of our efforts, so information on the podcast has been produced to be more accessible and hopefully will encourage people to seek help when needed. He has explored many real-life topics, including:
Professor Szabo encourages people who experience early signs of psychological distress, like insomnia, irritability, and lack of interest in pleasurable activities or even self-care, to seek help from professionals.
You can find the link to the full podcast series here: Beyond Madness.
Watch The Video
The video interview contains the full dialogue of this interview on Beyond Madness with Professor Szabo. You can watch it below.
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