Everyone has a take on this. Be it as a survivor, a victim, an onlooker, a helper or a non-believer in its existence. The world has forced us to have an opinion because depression is gradually becoming an endemic in several countries. Globally, about 264 million persons of all ages are said to suffer depression. But before all the statistics and numbers. What on the blue planet is this buzzword we throw around?
Depression is a mental ailment, a common illness that affects the way you feel, think and act negatively. It’s an increase in perpetual negative emotions, loss of interest in activities &/people that were once important, isolation among so many things. It is treatable. It is not a death sentence. It is not a joke either. Depression is not a mood swing.
Common pointers that Depression has surfaced are
Persistent Feelings of sad or having a downer mood
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
Loss of energy or increased fatigue
Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, hand-wringing) or slowed movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable by others)
Feeling worthless or guilty
Thoughts of death or suicide
Here are a few chewable facts.
Depression is a common mental disorder. It is an ailment as much as having COVID is. It is not a thing people say only when they feel sad.
Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
More women are affected by depression than men.
Depression can lead to suicide.
There are effective psychological and pharmacological treatments for moderate and severe depression.
Now why this long lesson you might wonder. It is Mental Health Awareness Month and people know so very little about the illnesses that plague our society, yet are so quick to splash colloquialisms here and there. Mental Health this, Mental Health that. Here’s the truth. Our life is informed by what we take in, but our reality is informed by what our minds perceive and interpret. So, this is why wherever you go, you will find teachings to watch your space, guard your heart, declutter, keep negativity away and the likes. It cannot be overemphasized. Watch what you consume both externally and internally ( what you ingest via media and conversation, what you think/tell yourself inwardly). But if you’re /a loved one is already feeling the onset of depression or a full-blown case. What do you do?
From textbooks and real life, the last and most ineffective thing to ever do is to tell a depressed person “don’t be depressed.” I know it seems like a no brainer, but you would be surprised by how often people are unable to resist the temptation to say this. Rather, affirm them. If it is you, give yourself credit for staying alive this long. For trying. Affirm the person. Be as detailed as possible in your affirmation, talk about why you love them. How important they are to you, let them know how much they mean to you. Get them to listen. If it is you, you can practice this by writing love letters or notes to yourself when you are in a great place and feeling okay. You can then reread them when the chips are down. In contrast, you can write out all those horrible and mean things you say to yourself in your mind, write them out and read to yourself. I promise you would not like the venom and poison of those words. You wouldn’t say it to your favourite person in the world, then you shouldn’t be saying it to yourself.
Be kind. Depression is an ailment and if you have cared for an ill person, you will get an idea why they are called “patients” in the hospital. Being a caregiver can get overwhelming, but remember that it is always worse for the sick. If being a caregiver is the cause of your depression, I will advise you to give yourself the gift of quality time. Do not feel guilty for looking after yourself too. Remember, kindness exudes from inside out.
Take good care of yourself. Eat well. Eat healthy foods even and especially when you don’t feel like. I assure you that it’s in those moments you need to the most. There are naturally occurring appetite boosters. If you are having difficulty with sleep, try exercising. Running is usually a very effective therapy. It will also improve your appetite.
When someone dealing with depression starts talking, please listen. Don’t listen to give wise anecdotes and cute quotes, listen to understand why they are feeling that way. it will inform you on how to help them.
I know we are in a DIY society, but trained professionals are willing to help people struggling with mental health challenges. Mentally Aware Nigeria is one. I have so much more to say, but I will stop here. I hope it helps.