Depression and suicide are at the front burner of mental health challenges facing the adult population globally.
According to reports, in Nigeria as much as 1.5 million cases are diagnosed per year. Although efforts at advocacy and awareness are on the rise, more still needs to be done.
This mental health disorder which presents with consistently low mood or loss of interest in activities, sadness and despair is among the leading cause of suicide among adults.
One in three people will experience a major depressive episode at some stage in their lives.
While most cases of depression are mild, about one person in ten will have a moderate or severe episode.
Scientists say that genetic influences are responsible for individuals being prone to depression more than others by a 30% factor.
Although everyone feels sad and experiences mood swings once in a while or when faced with unpleasant experiences, some major adverse life occurrences could lead to depression.
Things such as the loss of a loved one(s), stress, trauma, major life changes, relocation, a fatal accident, etc.
These feelings could hang on for long periods and resurface whenever one recalls the experience, birthday, anniversary or revisits a particular place.
What Are The Signs and Symptoms?
It is also important to distinguish sadness from depression, as the former is only momentary while the latter is persistent. Having a proper understanding of the mental state a person is in can be the start to a proper diagnosis and treatment for mental illnesses such as depression.
The signs and symptoms of depression can be categorized into two groups namely: physical symptoms and psychological symptoms.
These may include but are not limited to the following:
- Loss of appetite accompanied by drastic loss of weight.
- Loss of interest in sex.
- Dull or slowed activity and speech.
- Loss of enthusiasm and weakness even when not physically active.
- Sleeplessness usually characterised by restlessness and early morning wakening.
These may include but are not limited to the following:
- Miserable feeling throughout the day lasting for periods reaching up to weeks.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities.
- Suicidal thoughts that you would be better off dead or by ending your life.
- or inefficient thinking leading to poor decision making and cognitive abilities
What Are The Risk Factors?
Current research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
Although it often starts during adulthood, depression can happen at any age.
Children and adolescents have now been proven to also suffer from depression, even though it may present with irritability rather than low mood.
Particularly in midlife or older adults, depression can co-occur with a number of life-threatening ailments such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.
Also, some medications taken for these ailments may cause side effects that contribute to depression.
Generally speaking, risk factors for depression include:
- Certain physical illnesses and medications
- Personal or family history of depression
- Major life changes, trauma, or stress
How To Deal With Depression
A number of ways and therapies exist for dealing with depression. However, experts believe that the best therapies are usually a combination of one or more treatments.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), medication with antidepressants, and in some severe cases, Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) still remain the main medical options in depression management.
It is also important to note that enlightenment and knowledge of ways to deal with depression are very helpful
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Whether as a stand-alone treatment or in conjunction with medication, CBT is a great depression therapy.
It has been shown to be very effective with an 80% success rate in people with mild, moderate or severe depression.
The sufferer is usually taught how to solve problems if the problem is a result or cause of the depression.
CBT is more of a behavioural change process and usually involves learning how to do the following:
- control the negative thoughts that lead to loss of interest and feelings of worthlessness;
- counteract the behaviours related to poor concentration and thoughts of death
- combat the emotions of sadness and hopelessness, and;
This particular therapy is usually recommended under the following circumstances:
- If the sufferer has had a previous positive response to CBT
- When the depression is mild, moderate, or severe
- Where a competent, trained clinician who has expertise in CBT is available, or the person is prepared to use internet CBT
- When taking antidepressants are medically contraindicated
- If the depressed person prefers CBT or iCBT.
In some instances, medication therapy with a regimen of antidepressants are the first line of treatment in dealing with severe depression.
Experts recommend managing severe with a dose of medication.
However, in the case of mild to moderate depression, medication therapy with antidepressants is not usually the recommended first-line treatment.
Be sure to follow a physicians prescription and maintain close supervision by a professional to ensure proper management especially during the early phases when the side effects of the medication could be quite disturbing.
A few precautions to note when taking medication therapy with antidepressants:
- Consult with the healthcare provider who recommended the treatment before terminating the therapy.
- Ensure to follow the prescription consistently daily.
- Notify your healthcare provider if the side effects remain sustained for prolonged periods
- Ensure to continue the medication until the recommended period is over even though you feel relieved.
Medication therapy is however contraindicated where CBT and iCBT are contraindicated.
What Else Can One Do To Manage Depression?
Besides taking medication for depression and changing one’s behaviour, there are a number of things one can do to help deal with the condition.
Some of such things include the following:
- Get enlightened about depression as well as things, behaviours and possible causes or triggers.
- Engage in physical activities, sports and exercise
- Set realistic goals for yourself.
- Avoid being isolated from others, be in good company and also get help where necessary.
- Speak with friends, family or relatives when faced with difficulty or in need of company.
- Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative.
- Recovery from a bad mood is a gradual process, be patient with yourself.
- Delay making drastic life decisions such as career changes, relocation, divorce or marriage until fully recovered.
- Speak with experts or other knowledgeable persons to objectively evaluate decisions and situations before taking action.
In all, it is important for everyone to be enlightened about depression.
The more aware we are of this mental health challenge, the better we are able to manage it and help others who are sufferers.
Family members, friends and community members are important to provide a support system to help people prone to depression.
The more people are aware and know how to care for or provide assistance, the better.
If you feel the need to speak to someone or a professional, kindly contact the suicide prevention lines in your country using this link.