” Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”: WHO
Depression as a mental disorder affects nearly one in 20 people across India, the WHO estimates. It has declared “Depression: Let’s talk” as a theme for World Health Day in an attempt to encourage people to come forward for treatment.
Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world. But because it is a mental illness it can be a lot harder to understand than say high blood pressure. One major source of confusion is the difference between having depression and just feeling depressed.
Almost everyone feels down from time to time. Getting a bad grade, losing a job etc. Sometimes, there is no trigger at all. It just pops up out of the blue. Then circumstances change and those sad feelings disappear. Clinical depression is different. It is a medical disorder and it won’t go away just because you want it to. It lingers for atleast two consecutive weeks and significantly interferes with one’s ability to work, play or love.
Depression can have a lot of different symptoms: a low mood, loss of interest in things you usually enjoy, changes in appetite, feeling worthless or excessively guilty, sleeping either too much or too little, having poor concentration, restlessness or slowness, loss of energy or recurrent thoughts of suicide.
If you have atleast 5 of those symptoms, according to psychiatric guidelines you qualify for a diagnosis of depression. And it’s not just behavioral symptoms, depression has physical manifestations inside the brain and it has been observed medically. But neuro scientists still don’t have a complete picture of what causes depression. It seems to have to do with a complex interaction between genes and environment. But we don’t have a diagnostic tool that can accurately predict where or when it will show up. According to research, it takes the average person suffering with a mental illness over 10 years to ask for help. Medications and therapy compliment each other to boost brain chemicals. So if you know someone struggling with depression, encourage them, GENTLY, to seek help. If they feel guilty or ashamed point out that depression is a medical condition just like asthma or diabetes. It is not a weakness or a personality trait and they shouldn’t expect themselves to just get over it.
Open conversations about mental illness help remove the stigma attached to it and make it easier for people to ask for help. And the more patients seek treatment the more scientists will learn about depression and the better the treatments will get. However, things are already taking a turn for the better. India’s new reformist mental healthcare bill decriminalises suicide and empowers the mentally ill to choose a mode of treatment and nominate somebody to ensure that their wishes are carried out. Also no more degrading treatments like shock therapy.
So, yes, the time for change is here. Depression is curable and you are not alone. #LETSTALK
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