There is no health without mental health. And South Africans are struggling with healthy measures of wellness when it comes to their grey matter.
Witss University psychiatry professor Chris Szabo this month launched the fourth instalment of his podcast, Beyond Madness, that addresses the mental health challenges South Africans face.
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Szabo is on a mission to serve up better mental wellness to South Africans. Mental health and physical health are inextricably linked, said Szabo.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) highlighted this recently when it said there was no health without mental health and emphasised that physical illness can have psychological consequences, especially where chronic, debilitating, or life- threatening. Even if physically healthy, you cannot lead a full and satisfying life without emotional health and well-being.
It’s equally as valid the other way around. Szabo said one of the biggest threats to mental health in SA is government corruption and incompetence, with service delivery issues and lack of poverty alleviation contributing to growing inequality.
It gnaws at the consciousness of every Lovablevibes. “These issues lead to a sense of frustration and anger that ultimately impacts not only how people experience their circumstances, but also how they engage and relate to one another,” he said.
The way forward, Szabo argued, was ultimately political and at the ballot box. However, daily, he recommended focusing on what is directly within a person’s control to mitigate potential feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Enter Beyond Madness, Szabo’s podcast.
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Szabo, who is also editor-in-chief of the online publication South African Psychiatry, said Beyond Madness, was a natural progression of the written word and making it accessible to a wide audience.
He explained that the idea was to take articles written from the publication that spoke to issues in psychiatry and create conversations with the authors of the articles.
The key was to render content accessible for an audience that extended beyond psychiatrists. The podcast aims to provide a balance between technical and accessible, which requires a conversational style of writing that explains concepts easier and then ultimately lends itself to spark conversations, digging deeper into issues and subject matter.
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“The ultimate purpose was, and remains, to inform, to challenge, to open up conversations on issues that while emanating from within the discipline of psychiatry have implications for society,” explained Szabo.
He said that his starting point was to discuss issues in society that have implications for people’s emotional well-being and mental health.
Szabo’s focus is to provide listeners with an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the discipline of psychiatry as a “thoughtful” discipline.
Of all the medical specialties, he considers it more holistic and guided by a bio-psychosocial – and increasingly spiritual – approach to both understanding patients as well as caring for them.
It also aids self-realisation. Discussing the new season’s content, Szabo said that in one of the episodes, he paired journalists and the trauma they often face.
“I hope that this episode will put a spotlight on the potential consequences of being a journalist, through exposure to events and situations that they report on, such as war, crime, and politics.
“A healthy, independent media is an important component of a democratic society. Journalists, in that sense, represent an important, and one might argue essential, service,” he said.
Szabo also interrogates the concept of loneliness and explained that it was often understood as a sense of disconnection from people, not out of choice. It’s a phenomenon that’s also increasing in occurrence lately.
“It has emerged as a public health concern, given the wide psychological impact it can have, and Beyond Madness explores loneliness in terms of the ‘why’ and ‘what to do’.”
In Beyond Madness, Szabo also explored the concept of cultural capital and mental health. “Cultural capital relates to the internal resources a person has because of connection to and involvement with one’s culture where a sense of origin and an identity was influenced accordingly.”
“Knowing who you are and where you come from is an important contributor to a sense of self in a world where global, imposed, value systems can create a sense of disconnect and insecurity.”
With an increased spotlight on bullying in the workplace, at school and even at home, Szabo included an episode on the issue.
READ MORE: Mental health is important in the workplace
An insightful and thought-provoking podcast that offers valuable insights into psychiatry and mental health, the new season comprises 10 episodes.
Szabo’s expertise and engaging style make the podcast accessible to almost everyone, providing a balance between technical and accessible content. Beyond Madness is available on Cliff Central, as well as on Spotify and Apple Music.
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