When we think of the word ‘depression’, the image that comes to mind is usually that of a person who’s down in the dumps or melancholic. Over time, it’s become synonymous with sadness or gloominess.
However, depression is a real illness impacting the body mentally and often, physically. It refers to prolonged feelings of helplessness, worthlessness and the loss of motivation to go about daily life.
Biologically speaking, depression is said to be the result of low levels of various neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. But depression tends be more complex than that as it also involves the amygdala, hippocampus and other parts of the brain.
While depression does not always lead to suicide, thoughts of suicide can often plague a depressed individual, who can choose whether to act upon them or not. Suicide has several risk factors including mental disorders, substance abuse, adverse life effects, PTSD, etc.
Research has shown that the most successful suicide prevention programmes are those which focus on treating the underlying causes which push a person towards suicide. They treat mental illnesses, substance abuse and devise coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety.
As suicide can be attempted by an individual of any age, gender or cultural background, it is important to plan appropriate programmes in accordance with these factors.
Changing India’s Attitude
The World Health Organization says that depression will be the second most prevalent condition in the world by 2020.
Currently, only 5 to 10 per cent of Indians with depression seek help in the form of therapy or medicines. The majority of the population suffering from depression goes without help. There is an urgent need to destigmatize mental illness so that more and more people feel comfortable talking about it and can visit a therapist.
As individuals, we need to realize the depression is not just being in a ‘bad mood’; or something that people should just ‘get over’. Depression is a real illness having a highly detrimental effect on the body and is an issue that needs to be given attention.
India also has a shortage of mental health experts. The doctor-patient ratio in India is in any case quite poor, but combined with a lack of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, psychiatric social workers and psychiatric nurses, it is almost crippling for the country.
It is imperative that the current knowledge base is converted into practice in order to treat depression, anxiety and other mental health issues at a larger scale. Healthcare professionals must be trained to identify the symptoms of common mental disorders. Setting up of more mental health institutions in the country is much needed.
Depression is more common than we think. It’s important for us to be able to recognize the symptoms of a mental disorder in those around us. Symptoms of depression include: Fatigue and decreased energy, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, restlessness, overeating or appetite loss etc.
When such symptoms persist for prolonged periods of time, they could be an indicator of depression. If you or anyone you know seems to be going through depression or has thoughts of suicide, one of the 24/7 helpline numbers in India is 022 2754 6669.
[Image Attribute: Helga Weber]