A MSW (Institute of Mental Health)
& Rotary Club of Northam Initiative

Mental Health : About Schizophrenia and Depression

IMH welcomes caregivers and family members of patients with mental illness to approach our clinical staff with enquiries related to the patient’s condition, or request for resources like psychoeducation booklets and helpful websites.

Schizophrenia: What is It?

Schizophrenia refers to a specific psychiatric illness characterised by severe problems in social functioning, self-care skills and difficulties in distinguishing reality. This illness is caused by an imbalance of the chemicals in the brain, but may also be influenced by the environment. This interplay between biology and the environment provides us with unique opportunities to help improve your loved one's illness.
    Characteristics of schizophrenia consist of one or more of the following:
    • Delusions
    • Hallucinations
    • Disorganised speech
    • Grossly disorganised or catatonic behaviour
    • Negative symptoms, i.e. affective flattening, alogia, or avolition

Onset of this mental illness is usually during adolescence or early adulthood. With optimal treatment through pharmacotherapy and psychosocial interventions, the person with schizophrenia can maintain healthy social and occupational functioning.

A well-equipped and trained caregiver plays a crucial role in the recovery and prevention of schizophrenia relapses. The frustration experienced by caregivers is common and should not be left unaddressed. Various organisations such as SAMH, CAMI, and Silver Ribbon have resources and programmes to help caregivers in riding through the many challenges.

Depression: The Invisible Killer

Depressive feelings are common and one has to be careful not to shrug such feelings off, especially when they persist for more than two weeks, interfere with daily life, or lead to suicidal ideation.
    Clinical depression may also present itself in the following ways:
    • Poor appetite or overeating
    • Insomnia or hypersomnia
    • Low energy or fatigue
    • Low self-esteem
    • Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
    • Feelings of hopelessness

Depression can arise due to organic and/or psychosocial reasons. Common psychosocial stressors include death and separation of loved ones, loss of a job, sudden change of environment, and old age. The use of alcohol can aggravate depression and should be avoided.

If you suspect that you or your loved one is suffering from depression, do not hesitate to consult a general practitioner or psychiatrist. Depression is treatable and early intervention is recommended.