Last Wednesday (10th of October) was the World Mental Health Day. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 350 million people across the world suffer from depression. However, only less than half were able to receive treatments.
The economic downturn that was experienced worldwide has caused many people to lose their jobs and suffer from major financial setbacks. And this has contributed to the rising rate of depression. Because of this, the WHO believes that it is more than necessary to patronise awareness and understanding among the public to hopefully end the stigma associated with mental health disorders.
Being one of their top concerns, the organisation has launched the Mental Health Gap Action Programme which aims to raise awareness regarding the mental health services offered in all countries around the world.
Basically, what is depression?
The word “depression” usually provokes confusion among many people. Generally, we refer it to a feeling of sadness or misery. Such confusion becomes worse because it is somehow difficult to differentiate sadness with depression.
But according to Dr Shekhar Saxena, WHO’s Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, depression is a disorder characterised by an intense feeling of sadness for two weeks or more, which affect a person’s day-to-day work or other responsibilities. It is not the same with the usual feeling of sadness that anybody feels once in a while.
There are many causes, he said. Depression may be caused by biological factors such as changes in the neurotransmitters in the brain, but there are environmental and personality factors as well that may trigger a depressive illness.
Depression is a global problem
The WHO estimates one million people around the world commit suicide every year and majority of them had depression. They also said that one in 5 women who give birth suffer from post-partum depression.
Saxena pointed out that depression is a global problem. It should be given adequate attention not just in developed countries but also in developing nations. He said that poor countries are pre-disposed to depression due to high level of stress, as well as physical conditions (like HIV or AIDS), chronic illnesses, and other socio-economic factors.
Am I depressed or just sad?
Unlike most illnesses, it is difficult to diagnose depression because it cannot be detected by blood test or brain scan. The diagnosis all depends on the symptoms. They include loss of interest on usual activities and hobbies, sleeping problems, poor appetite (though some people tend to binge-eat), difficulty concentrating, loss of self-confidence, feelings of helplessness and guilt, avoidance of other people like family and friends, etc.
One doesn’t have to experience all the symptoms to be diagnosed as clinically depressed. In current practise, a person is diagnosed with depression if he or she has persistently low mood going on for 2 weeks or so which already affects their everyday life, and has experienced 3 or 4 symptoms.
Treatments for depression
It is sad to know that despite the plenty of treatments available, only a small percentage of depression sufferers take the steps to recover from their condition. The two major approaches to treat depressive illnesses are psychotherapy and medication.
Medications include antidepressants which are believed to create changes on the brain chemistry and correct abnormalities which are causing the illness. However, several studies reveal that the use of antidepressant pills do not provide long-term relief from the symptoms.
Dr Shekhar suggests that medical professionals should diagnose depression not just through physical examination but also by asking the right questions to the patient, and such questions must focus on one’s emotional state.
In an interesting video created by the WHO for the World Mental Health Day, they narrate what it’s like to have a depression and how it can ruin a person’s life, make them grow older, and keep them away from socialising with other people. Such simple, yet very informative video also provides tips and advice in coping with depression:
1. Be emotionally genuine and authentic to those close to you. If there are people who can say that something is wrong with you, they would be the people who were always around you – family, friends, and relatives.
2. Exercise. Engaging in physical workout has been clinically proven to be effective in treating depression as antidepressants.
3. Seek professional help. Doing this could be your first step towards recovery from depression. With the help of a therapist, you will learn many things on how to properly cope with it.
4. Relax. Work, finances, and relationships – these things often put pressure and stress in our life. Go to a quiet place, sit down for a while, and allow your batteries to recharge.
5. Keep a mood journal. Learn how to identify your feelings. Do you feel sad, happy, worried, anxious, or guilty? Writing it down can help you become aware of your emotions and find out their real causes. Also, the WHO recommends keeping a journal of the things you are grateful for. Surely, they will put a smile on your face.
6. Don’t be afraid. No matter how bad it gets, taking the right steps and talking to the right people will eventually free you away from the gloomy world of depression. Remember, there is always help available.
Sources of this article:
World Mental Health Day: Defeating the dog called Depression
Many Millions Suffer from Depression
What is depression?