By SHANNON SKAE, health and life coach at Revive with Shan
I recently had a conversation with a client of mine about the state of Makhanda. We spoke of how if the world were ever to fall into an apocalyptic state, nothing would really change here. That sounds bleak, but there is already no water on most days, intermittent electricity, potholes the size of small craters, and an environment that begs us to be adaptive, patient, and resilient.
Our environment has a significant impact on our mental health. The weather itself affects our mental health.
Makhanda does have beautiful weather most of the time – even with our four seasons in one day! But the more our climate changes, the more we see anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders increase.
Environmental factors said to impact mental health include air pollution, weather conditions, housing conditions, noise, and green space. Underneath these broad terms are whether the space you live in has water, parks, cohesion in the community, urbanicity, and appropriate land use. If these are not comfortable, safe, and positive environments to live in, then depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues tend to rise.
Many feel this way about Makhanda. Our town and surrounding areas have been plagued with drought for a very long time. This has upset our water supply and caused many problems for farmers, with crops dying and animals starving.
Thankfully, we are connected to the Fish/Orange River water system. But, for primarily political reasons beyond the scope of a wellness column, this water doesn’t always make its way to our taps. Our water supply is seemingly always low, making any water use an issue. Without a doubt, not being able to shower or receive freshwater will negatively impact mental health.
And, then there’s Eskom that switches us on and off on what feels like a whim sometimes.
The roads that we drive on have not been adequately fixed either. A few critical roads in the CBD were upgraded, but that has not extended to the rest of the town.
Poverty and a lack of job creation in Makhanda are ever-present. From petty theft to violent crime, our crime rate is shockingly high in South Africa.
All of this culminates in feelings of hopelessness, agitation, irritability, depression, frustration, and anxiety. Many of us suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to ongoing exposure to violence or the threat of violence.
In summary, mental health is affected by the environment. When an environment is not a positive and safe space, mental health issues tend to rise. We must continue to connect as a community to make our living space safe and positive for all.