For as long as I can remember the topic mental health has been treated as taboo. In fact, in most African countries sources of mental health issues have been qualified as demonic possessions, spiritual attacks and even punishment from God. Many people in this part of the world fail to accept the wholeness of the body is not complete without wholeness of mind.
Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
Stress is normal, anxiety and nervousness in certain situations is normal but when you cannot check all the boxes in that definition, it is safe to qualify one as ill.
Depression is one of the numerous mental health disorders in the world today. It is a mood disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.
To complete that definition this feelings span over a long period of time at least two weeks.
Depression is different from grief and sadness. These are natural feelings that are usually a result of sad occurrences such as loss of a loved one, losing a job or even a break up.
As our faces are different so are our coping abilities. The grief process differs from person to person and maybe mistaken for depression.
Depression is responsible for a major percentage of suicides that are committed worldwide every year.
Over 50 percent of suicide cases are a result of depression, when you include depressed alcoholics the number rises to over 70 percent. Let’s face it, depression is a cankerworm we have ignored for too long.
What causes depression? What are the types of depression?
Depression is a result of a shift in the social, psychology and physiology in a person from the normal. It happens as a result of numerous factors coming together. It is ranged from mild to severe based on the symptoms and severity of each episode.
During a mild depressive episode, the individual would have problem performing normal activities while during a severe episode there’s a possibility the individual coping with regular activities is almost nil.
Depression cannot be diagnosed by blood tests (if the underlying cause is physiological this may be necessary like in hyperthyroidism), x-rays or scans. An examination by a specialist would help diagnose depression, the type and the necessary treatment needed.
Some forms of depression are :
- Major Depression – also known as clinical depression marked by a depressed mood most of the day, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, insomnia, lack of interest in any regular activities and thoughts of death/suicide for about two weeks.
- Dysthymia (Chronic depression) – where the symptoms are milder but may last for as long as two years. This form of depression could be hereditary or idiopathic.
- Atypical – where the symptoms are specific. They include increased weight, excessive sleep, marked fatigue or weakness, extreme reactions to situations. In postpartum depression occurs within four weeks of delivery. It is a result of various chemical, social and emotional factors.
[ There is also psychotic, manic and seasonal forms of depression. ]
When depression is ignored the symptoms keep progressing and affects all areas of the individual’s life. Depression could begin at any point in a someone’s life, even in childhood. It is the role of everyone involved in the depressed individual’s life to make things as easy and comfortable as possible.
In Africa, it is undeniably sad that parents cannot wrap their heads around the fact that children could get depressed.
Bullying of any kind, maltreatment, physical/sexual harassment can lead to depression in children.
Kate Middleton said, ‘a child’s mental health is just as important as their physical health and deserves the same quality of support. No one would feel embarrassed about seeking help for a child if they broke their arm and we really should be equally ready to support a child coping with emotional difficulties.’
As it continues to be ignored, depression develops into something worse. A person may actually have atypical depression or dysthymia at first. When it is ignored it could develop into psychotic or manic depression which is way worse.
The symptoms of depression could also lead to other mental disorders. It could be eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. It could also lead to alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addiction and some psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. The worse of its symptoms is thoughts of suicide. When a depressed person gets to this point, he/she has given up hope on life.
Our parents might have made mistakes due to ignorance or the fear of the unknown but it does not mean we should. Depression is the number one cause of suicide in the world.
Do well to communicate with your kids and know what is going on in their lives. You should be able to detect a change in their behaviours and eating habits and know the reason why.
When an adult is depressed, the people closest to him/her notice. The key is to know what triggers their episodes and ensure that they avoid those triggers as much as possible. As an individual if you suspect you could be depressed, do well to seek medical assistance as quickly as possible. Suicide is not a solution to depression.
Feeling depressed, talk to someone about it.
Please if you experience suicidal feelings or thoughts [ Nigeria ], call these HOTLINES; +2348062106493 or +2348092106493. Remember you are not alone.