Category Archives: Rand Aid

The ugly truth about depression and substance abuse

Research indicates a connection between mood disorders like depression and substance abuse, says social worker Karen Griessel, who has helped dozens of people kick addiction through Wedge Gardens’ professional treatment programme.

Sanca-affiliated Wedge Gardens has developed a holistic treatment programme based on multi-disciplinary interventions that focus on assessment, behaviour change, family and community integration and recovery care within the life cycle of addiction, from onset to the later years.

“People diagnosed with a mood disorder are twice as likely to abuse substances and one-third of people with depression have an alcohol problem. People who are depressed may drink or abuse drugs to lift their mood or escape from feelings of guilt or despair. But substances like alcohol, which is a depressant, can increase feelings of sadness or fatigue,” says Karen.

She explains that people can experience depression after the effects of drugs wear off or as they struggle to cope with how the addiction has impacted their life. “A drink or two or a line of cocaine might temporarily relieve some symptoms, but the backlash when the chemical leaves the body brings the depression to new lows. This withdrawal depression happens each time chemicals leave the body. This can trigger the use of more alcohol or drugs because they will help get rid of the bad feelings.”

Those who suffer from depression are combating more than just occasional sadness. Many times, the symptoms of depression manifest physically as well as mentally. Some of the symptoms include the following: aches and pains, sleeplessness, hopelessness, anxiety, weight issues, sleeping too much, no energy, crying, worthlessness, irritability, suicide and general loss of interest in life. Some roots of depression include brain functioning, environment and childhood experiences, genetics, situational factors and chemical imbalances in the brain.

“It’s not clear fact which comes first – addiction or depression. Some people develop alcoholism or drug addiction first while others develop depression first. Because drug-use symptoms can imitate the symptoms of depression, it can be difficult to diagnose depression when a person is actively using,” she says.

A person who abuses a substance may also develop depression. For instance, the person may abuse a substance, become addicted, and eventually it affects their life negatively. These effects may contribute to developing depression as it alters the levels of serotonin.

On the other hand, people who have depression may abuse a substance to self-medicate and treat the problem. Although substance abuse may be used to relieve symptoms, chemical intoxication can make depressive episodes more severe, increasing the frequency and intensity of negative thoughts and self-destructive behaviour. “Typically, this is only a temporary solution, as the substance abuse worsens the depression over time. Drug or alcohol dependency can cause a great deal of hardship across all spectrums of life and ultimately worsen the person’s depression.”

The World Health Organisation states that 350 million reported people suffer from depression, half of which won’t receive treatment.

Treatment for depression and substance abuse generally includes the use of both medications and therapy. Antidepressants may be used to stabilise mood, and various medications may be used as needed to moderate withdrawal from substances of abuse. Therapy makes up the backbone of treatment, addressing issues related to both disorders. A rehab programme that addresses both depression and addiction may help to stop the progression of both disorders and empower the individual to build a healthy, sober life.

“Someone who had depression before they began to abuse substances will most likely need treatment, including medication intervention, for a longer time than someone whose depression was caused by the cycle of addiction.

“Depression is a chronic, progressive illness that may get worse without treatment. The only way to treat this serious disorder effectively is through professional therapeutic interventions, such as behavioural modification, support groups, motivational therapy and antidepressant medications.”

* Wedge Gardens can be reached at 011 430 0320. You can also ‘like’ Wedge Gardens on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WedgeGardensTreatmentCentre) or follow them on Twitter (@WedgeGardens)

 

On the straight and narrow, thanks to people who care

A little bit of civic-mindedness and concern for others goes a long way. This is what young Lebogang Tsebe of Alexandra experienced when his mother refused to allow him to ruin his life.

Sylvia Tsebe is part of the housekeeping staff at Rand Aid’s Inyoni Creek retirement village. Last year, she unburdened herself at work, saying how she feared for her young son who was using drugs and refusing to go to school.

Rand Aid also manages a substance abuse treatment centre called Wedge Gardens. “We approached Wedge Gardens for guidance and Lebogang was put on a waiting list to be admitted to the centre for treatment,” explains Jenny Tonkin, Inyoni Creek’s manager.

Eventually, a space became available and Lebogang spent the next three months as a resident of Wedge Gardens, where he benefited from the professional programme that is run. It is a holistic programme based on multi-disciplinary interventions that focus on assessment, behaviour change, family and community integration and recovery care.

The centre has a limited number of state subsidised beds.

At the end of last year, Lebogang returned home – clean, sober and full of hope. Sylvia knew that without an education, Lebogang would battle to get a job and without a constructive way to keep himself busy, his chances of relapse were greater. She again turned to the management team at Inyoni Creek.

Deputy complex manager Marinda Looyen suggested that Lebogang go and see what courses were available at the Ekurhuleni Artisans and Skills Training Centre in Kempton Park, where Inyoni Creek sends its staff for training.

“On applying at the college, he was given a full bursary and is doing a three-year course to be trained as a mechanic,” says Jenny, smiling when she remembers how Lebogang – now 19 – arrived at their offices recently to thank them for all they had done to help him.

Wedge Gardens plans walking labyrinth

The Wedge Garden treatment centre’s occupational therapy (OT) department is expanding the mindfulness sessions it holds every morning with the recovering addicts in its care, by implementing more active-meditative, mindfulness practices.

Active-meditation can be more grounded and comfortable for people who are new to mindfulness as the process can feel a lot less daunting and demanding. Currently, the OT department engages in predominately still, silent meditation with the patients, with yoga once a week. The hope is to enrich the mindfulness programme with a walking labyrinth to introduce the patients to the multiple ways in which a person can practice new skills.

Mindfulness is the art of paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them. “Numerous research studies support the benefits of practicing mindfulness, with the most pertinent benefit being that of developing the ability to self-regulate: train attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control, thereby fostering general mental well-being,” says Kendra Neethling, who heads up the centre’s OT department.

“Researchers theorise that mindfulness lessens stress and enhances working memory. These cognitive gains, in turn, help people better control and regulate emotional responses to events.

“These skills are exceptionally useful for individuals facing today’s challenges, and within an addiction rehabilitation centre like Wedge Gardens, they can be the foundation to preventing relapse,” says Kendra.

The OT department was recently in touch with Pebbles for Africa and have been fortunate enough to receive a discounted rate on large rocks that will help form the border of the labyrinth.

“However, we need to secure the funds to complete the project and as such, I ask anyone interested in helping to please contact me. Any assistance will be greatly appreciated – and recognised – on completion of the project.

“Your help can change lives!”

* Wedge Gardens can be reached at 011 430 0320. You can also ‘like’ Wedge Gardens on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WedgeGardensTreatmentCentre) or follow them on Twitter (@WedgeGardens)

Thembalami residents savour dining hall make-over

Sandton-based Infinitude Design has once again worked a little magic at Rand Aid’s Thembalami Care Centre.

The company has done make-overs of various parts of the care centre over the past few years. Situated in Lombardy East, Thembalami looks after vulnerable senior citizens and aged deaf and deafblind people.

This time around, it was the dining room that was given a new look. The large room was transformed into a vibrant space. Wallpaper was put on three walls, splashes of colour added through paint and artwork, new curtains puts up and tiles laid. In addition, the steel windows and doors were replaced with aluminium ones.

“In the one corner of the hall they created a cosy lounge area with a TV set against the wall. They took a three-and two seater couch and two wingback chairs and re-upholster them with fabric that was donated by one of their suppliers. This is a beautiful space where the residents can sit and enjoy drinking coffee or tea whilst watching the morning news,” says Elize Raath, the head of Thembalami.

She adds that Infinitude Design had 110 cushions made for the chairs in the dining hall.  “One of their suppliers made the cushions at cost price. They are covered in navy blue and brown fake leather, which is easy to wash but has made the chairs nice and soft,” says Elize.

Each table now sports a steel condiment holder with a small succulent plant in it, and laminated place mats were designed for each resident.

“The transformation is amazing. The dining hall looks warm, homely and creates an atmosphere of serenity,” says Elize.

 

Heart-warming Christmas celebrations at care centre

On December 19, there was a flurry of activity at the Ron Smith Care Centre as final preparations were made for the Christmas party to be held the following day. The decorations were up, the cutlery was polished, the tables were laid, the pretty Christmas tree centre-pieces with angels, garland and tinsel were placed, and a final staff practice of the Christmas entertainment was held.

The care centre staff, all dressed in red and white and wearing Santa hats, began the celebrations with a procession into the hall, singing Silent Night. They continued with the carols: Once in Royal David’s City, Away in a Manger, Jingle Bells, Mary’s Boy Child and a rousing Joy to the World. Then it was the residents’ turn to sing along to lovely piano music by volunteer, Jean Johnson, as she played some of their favourites: Hark the Herald Angels Sing, The Drummer Boy and We wish you a Merry Christmas, amongst others.

Following the singing, there was a special performance by staff, who acted out the lyrics to The 12 Days of Christmas. As an introduction, Debbie Christen,  Rand Aid’s Manager: Recreational Programmes, reminded the audience that this old English carol was actually about a love-sick gentleman plying his sweetheart with a series of gifts which increase in quantity and volume over each of the 12 days.

The Ron Smith Care Centre staff’s comical interpretation of this old fashioned song brought smiles of delight and laughter, as they recognised those representing the 12 drummers drumming, the 11 pipers piping, 10 lords a leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight milk maids milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree!

Next was a surprise visit by Santa Claus (aka volunteer Dave Stewart), whose arrival was heralded with the jingle of sleigh bells and a very loud, “Ho Ho Ho – Merry Christmas”. He handed out Sweetie Pies to all the residents, with the help of his two elves. The Christmas programme wrapped up with staff and residents singing to Feliz Navidad, with the staff dancing around the hall, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

The residents then moved across to the dining room for a lovely Christmas lunch, which consisted of a Salmon mousse starter, followed by roast sirloin of beef and lamb, roast potatoes, and vegetables. A lovely sherry trifle rounded off the delicious meal.

Care centre resident Gordon Ross summed up the celebration by saying: “I don’t think that I have ever attended anything before, where people enjoyed themselves like that… to be a part of this was very heart-warming.”