World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization. It provides us with a unique opportunity to mobilize action around a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world. The theme of our 2017 World Health Day campaign was ‘Depression: Let’s Talk‘. Cases of depression have ballooned up almost 20% in the last decade, making it linked to suicide, the leading cause of disability worldwide.
What is depression?
Depression is an illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks. In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following symptoms: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
Depression can happen at any age, but often begins in adulthood. Depression is now recognized as occurring in children and adolescents, although it sometimes presents with more prominent irritability than low mood. Many chronic mood and anxiety disorders in adults begin as high levels of anxiety in children.
Depression, especially in midlife or older adults, can co-occur with other serious medical illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease. These conditions are often worse when depression is present. Sometimes medications taken for these physical illnesses may cause side effects that contribute to depression. A doctor experienced in treating these complicated illnesses can help work out the best treatment strategy.
Recognizing the Signs
- Feeling sad, anxious, or empty
- Feeling hopeless or pessimistic
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Not enjoying things you used to enjoy
- Trouble with concentration, memory, or making decisions
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Appetite changes
- Gaining or losing weight
- Feeling restless or irritable
- Thoughts of suicide or death
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment
Risk factors include:
- Personal or family history of depression
- Major life changes, trauma, or stress
- Certain physical illnesses and medications
Depression can be treated. It can be through medications, or psychotherapy, or a combination of both. It’s actually a matter of trial and error. What works for one patient may not work for the other. But there’s one thing that each and every one of us can do: extend our whole-hearted support.
Beyond Treatment: A Personal Note to Friends and Family
Depression is crippling. Depression is debilitating. Please understand that. People who are depressed often feel alone. No one really listens to them, and often, even when they do, they just make the whole situation worse with their less than appropriate remarks. Firstly, depression stems up from issues in daily life and soon, it becomes a ‘permanent roommate’.
It’s easy for people to say that ‘you can get through anything and everything’ and that ‘you should think about your loved ones’ and ‘don’t quit’ and ‘don’t let it get to you’ and so on and so forth. But how many people actually come forward with supportive words like ‘how can we make it better?’
How many parents in this society actually stay supportive when their kid fails in something or doesn’t meet up to their expectations? The blame game continues while the person breaks some more. And then as they turn to their friends, they often come forward with comments such as be happy/ don’t make a big deal out of things/stop overthinking/ you’ve lots to be grateful for/ your issues ain’t that much and blah blah. Trust me, depression gets worse with this. They just keep thinking that it’s probably something wrong with them and they’re being a burden.
Look, it’s not about what you’ve in your life and it’s definitely not about ungratefulness.
When a person is depressed, it becomes very difficult to even keep your thoughts sane particularly when no one even supports you or makes it look like you’re making a huge deal out of a simple thing. In such situations, even one person who can say the ‘right thing'(again, here, it’s what makes him comfortable, not what he should/ shouldn’t do) can go a long way in saving him from suicide.
We need to appreciate them. It’s not about being an escapist. Some people are insensitive enough to call it a behavior of a ‘loser’. It’s really not. It’s about your own self-destructive thoughts. At that point of time, it doesn’t matter whether your parents/ friends love you or not. They need support. They need people who can make them understand that it’s okay to not feel okay at times. They ain’t a burden on anyone and they can be happy too.
Often, it’s just the lack of support and appreciation that makes depression even more crippling than it already is.
They can fight back with all their fervor. They just need someone to give them the zeal to fight back and not quit. You can make it better for them. Do it. Make a difference.