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What is Depression? How can we help?

The theme for this year's world health day is depression, with a slogan- Depression: Let's Talk. Depression is aptly chosen as this year's theme because it is taking pandemic proportions in today's competitive world. More and more young generations are diagnosed as having depressions every day attributing to failures in relationships, academics, careers, finances and many other seemingly inconsequential reasons. As per the WHO's definition of health, health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being but not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Yes, a person may seem well from others' perspective but he may be having troublesome issues within himself. He may not feel healthy mentally. Some unknown fear, apathy, anxiety may be lurking in his psyche and he may not know to whom he should consult. It is a global necessity that every one of us understands the fact that nobody is immune to mental illness and we should not attach a stigma to those having mental disorders.

What is depression?
Normally we all feel sad, lethargic, heartbroken and uninterested in any activities during stressful situations or after we face some major losses in life. These mild depressive symptoms are normal as we acknowledge the fact that it's not our day every day. The saying "Everyday is not Sunday" also reminds us that ups and downs in life are inevitable. Depression becomes a disorder when the symptoms become so severe that they interfere with normal functioning, and when they continue for weeks at a time. The sadness of depression is differently both quantitatively as well as qualitatively as compared to normal sadness. The most important feature is the sadness of mood or loss of interest and/or pleasure in almost all activities (pervasive sadness), present throughout the day (persistent sadness). 


Depression is so common that the life-time risk of depression in males is 8-12% and in females is 20-26%. Sadness is usually associated with pessimism and the person suffers from three common types of depressive ideas :
hopelessness (nothing is going to be good in future) ,
helplessness (nobody can help me to become better) and
worthlessness (I cannot do anything in my life, better if I end my life!! )

The person doesn't like to get involved in social interactions and is not excited about things he used to enjoy before. His appetite is decreased and keeps on thinking about some particular events repeatedly and becomes pessimistic. Some other physical manifestations (somatic syndrome) can also be seen as listed in the table below.

The suicidal tendency is seen increased in some of the risk groups. Suicidal risk is much more in the presence of following factors:
a. Presence of marked hopelessness
b. Males over 40 years age; unmarried, divorced/widowed
c. Written/verbal communication of suicidal intent and/or plan
d. Early stages of depression
e. Recovering from depression (At the peak of depression, the patient is usually either too depressed or too retarded to commit suicide)
f. Period of 3 months from recovery.

So, extra attention should be given to those persons. We should give them company, keep them engaged and occupied. We should never give them a chance to be overcomed by their depressive emotions.

How can we help ?
Depression is a disease and as every other disease it can be treated. The depressed person feels better even if we listen to his problems and show some sympathy. We should not mock or ridicule them saying things like, " You are talking nonsense, You're out of your wits, You crazy moron, What makes you so retarded? , Grow up man don't talk sissy, You got to be strong, etc.". That's not going to help.
We need to assure them that they can have their previous happy life back once again if they become aware of their condition. Regular psychiatric consultations should be made and medications should be taken as per the psychiatrist's pescription.

Let's talk about Depression..!!!

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