Professional tips to maintain your mental wellness

Mental health has become a popular topic as more people realise how important it is, and how often we ignore it – in ways that we’d never ignore our physical health. Our 2022 YouthX Changemaker in the category Social Good & Sustainability: Mental wellness through society, Dr Gwen Tonyane, is also a specialist psychiatrist.

If you haven’t been taking care of your mental wellness as well as you should and would like to know how, these helpful insights from Dr Tonyane may help. According to her, there are 3 common myths around mental wellness that need to be debunked:

Myth 1: It’s not normal to struggle

Mental health challenges are a part of life, and people experience them in different ways. They can also vary in intensity, depending on your circumstances at the time. One in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives, but not everyone recovers.

Although it’s normal to struggle, you never have to suffer. If you find that your symptoms are keeping you from fulfilling your goals, decreasing your productivity, or affecting your relationships, please seek help.

Myth 2: You should be able to handle your mental health issues on your own

When you have a broken leg, no one expects you to ‘walk off’ the pain. They recommend that you go for X-rays or see a surgeon. When you experience mental health challenges, it means your brain is not well. It makes perfect sense to seek care from a reputable healthcare provider registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa for a diagnosis and treatment.

Myth 3: People from affluent families or those with strong support networks don’t need therapy

Mental illness can affect anyone from all walks of life. Although family and friends contribute to positive mental health, psychiatrists and therapists are professionals who use therapies proven to be effective to treat and help manage your condition. They also offer objective, non-judgmental help while protecting your confidentiality.

Youngsters are particularly vulnerable when mental health is concerned

As a psychiatrist, Dr Tonyane works closely with the youth to help remove stigmas around mental health. She says that according to the World Health Organization, depression, anxiety, and behavioural disorders are among the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents.


Reach out to family and friends for emotional support – never bottle things up inside


‘The youth are particularly vulnerable to social exclusion, which means that there is constant pressure to conform with peers,’ she says. ‘Media influence and/or gender norms often exacerbate the youth’s lived reality versus their perceptions and aspirations.’

According to Dr Tonyane this can lead to feelings of disempowerment. It can add considerably to the mental stress young people experience, alongside other pressures like doing well at school, not disappointing their parents, getting to know their real self, forming meaningful relationships, evading substance use or sexual risk-taking, and still trying to enjoy their youth and have fun.

Unsure about your mental well-being?

Dr Tonyane listed the following common warning signs to help you identify whether you need help:

  1. Persistent and excessive worry or mood changes – like feeling low, tearful or irritable nearly every day for most of the day.
  2. Low levels of energy, appetite, sleep, attention, memory and sometimes libido.
  3. Struggling to find the motivation to get out of bed and the inability to perform usual daily functions and responsibilities.
  4. Recurrent physical symptoms and infections with no attributable medical cause.
  5. Dark thoughts about harming yourself, or fantasies about others or an illness ending your life.

If you relate to any of these signs, know that there is hope and help available to you. Dr Tonyane says that the first step is acknowledging that you need help: ‘Talk to someone, preferably a healthcare provider, who can guide you to the appropriate mental healthcare practitioner.’

You can also adopt these habits to improve your mental wellness:

  • Cut down on unhealthy food and drinks.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Take time out to relax and unwind.
  • Learn to say no without feeling guilty.
  • Set daily priorities or goals and acknowledge what you’ve managed to carry out at the end of the day, instead of focusing on what you haven’t been able to do.
  • Practise gratitude and thinking positively.

Reach out to family and friends for emotional support – never bottle things up inside. If you need urgent help, call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s 24-hour emergency helpline on 0800 456 789 or 0800 567 567.