African Cancer Support Group tackles effects of pain on mental well-being

By Lincoln DePradine

Dr Samuel Oluwadairo

Bodily pain, which can lead to other challenges such as anxiety, depression, panic attack and suicidal thoughts, ought not to be taken lightly and patients should consult their doctor, Psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Oluwadairo has advised.

There’s a relationship between depression, pain and chronic illness, Oluwadairo told an online health seminar of the Calgary-based African Cancer Support Group (ACSG).

“Physical health and mental health go together,’’ he said. “Adequate treatment of your psychological wellbeing helps you to be able to handle your physical pain better.’’

The event, a collaboration of the ACSG and the Oladele Foundation, was titled, “Cancers & Chronic Health Conditions: Effects on Mental and Psychological Well-being’’.

The ACSG, describing its mission, says it’s to support cancer “survivors, patients, and caregivers, and to share stories, symptoms, information, and coping strategies’’; and also “to provide education and awareness campaign towards destigmatizing cancer within the Black community’’.

Dr AdeYinka Marcus, who joined Oluwadairo as the seminar’s guest speakers, also underscored the importance of patients being willing to communicate about an illness with which they are dealing.

Not communicating about illness can be “detrimental’’, allowing the ailment to become “more chronic or more deadly’’, said Marcus, a psychiatrist and an assistant clinical professor at the University of Calgary’s Medical School.

“People would say someone has passed on from a brief illness. But, the illness wasn’t brief; it was, maybe, three years ago it started but the person did not say anything or do anything about it. So, I would encourage people to be mindful of their health, both physical and metal, because it’s always nice to treat them earlier; and, even better, to prevent the illness.’’

Oluwadairo, who also is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Calgary, said men are known to react differently to women when given news of a diagnosis of cancer or some other chronic illness.

Women are more likely to talk about their illness, while men often “withdraw’’, he said. “Men would try to hide their depression and sometimes do it so well,’’ according to Oluwadairo.

When someone is diagnosed with an illness, their families also are affected and “it tends to destabilize everything’’. Marcus said.

“It disrupts a lot of things,’’ he added. “It doesn’t affect only the person; it affects the family too.’’

Illness is something all humans will face, said Marcus. “As long we are human beings, anything that can happen to a human being can happen to me,’’ he said. “Sometimes people exercise well and they’ve done everything well, but they still succumb to a human illness – just because we are human.’’

However, both Marcus and Oluwadairo emphasized the importance of doctors’ visits, lifestyle changes in dealing with illnesses and utilizing various treatment options.

“Things are not as hopeless as they used to be in olden days,’’ Oluwadairo said.

In the modern era, there have been “lots of advancement in medicine, so people don’t have to despair’’, Marcus said. “There is an improved quality of life if someone is adequately treated either for the mental part or the physical health part; and, better still, for both.’’