As World Mental Health Day was marked on Monday, very little attention was given to victims of domestic abuse who, as a result of their abuse, suffer from depression in isolation. In response to the silence on sufferers of depression, the Saartjie Baartman Centre is calling on Cape Flats communities to provide safe spaces in which victims are free to open-up about their trauma. The centre, which is a shelter for victims of domestic abuse, assists approximately 600 women monthly, who suffer from depression as a result of domestic abuse.
Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat, shelter manager and head social worker at the centre, Dorothea Gertse explains that depression is increasingly proving to be a problem within Cape Flats communities, where three out of five women who attend the clinic have shown signs of depression.
Given the fact that most clients of the centre are victims of abuse, Gertse says that there appears to be a link between abuse and depression.
“Abusive relationships are traumatic events that women experience and are a lead cause of depression,” Gertse stated.
In light of the nature of most abuse cases, where victims are isolated and lack the necessary support structures, she asserts that the environment in which the victim is often imprisoned results in depression.
While the discussion of mental health concerns remain a taboo topic within Cape Flats communities, Gertse notes that many individuals prefer not be diagnosed and subsequently labelled as a mental health sufferer.
“People still think that it is something wrong and that they would not recover from it. So, I think that we need to educate our community.”
Gertse says that while it is natural for everyone to experience a “low day”, for certain individuals’ depression persists daily.
She asserts that chronically depressed individuals need to be educated about the remedies available to them and that they do not have to reside to a life of depression.
Since those employed at the centre are not medical experts, Gertse explains that those working with clients will monitor individuals for symptoms of depression.
“These are people who have lost interest in their social life, don’t feel like living, have suicidal thoughts, experience low levels of energy, and have difficulty making decisions,” she said.
Gertse says that in the event that an individual experiences a combination of these symptoms, the centre then refers the patient to a medical practitioner who specialises in treating depression.