The United Nations’ World Health Organisation celebrates World Health Awareness Day each year on April 7. This year’s theme is Depression: Let’s Talk, which aims to bring awareness about mental disorders, especially depression.
Depression is often confused with “sadness” but in reality it is a mental disorder which is characterised by a prolonged period of sadness, often bringing a toll to physiological as well as emotional well-being of the individual. It is more than feeling blue, sad or down in the dumps once in a while, though. Depression is a strong mood involving sadness, discouragement, despair or hopelessness that lasts for weeks, months or even longer. It affects an individual’s thoughts, outlook, behaviour, and mood as well as interferes with their ability to participate in their normal activities. It can cloud everything, making even small problems seem overwhelming. People with depression tend to have negative, self-critical and pessimistic thoughts. They lost the zeal for life, unable to see a bright future ahead them, and feel like giving up. Their emotional stability also gets hugely affected – they may cry at small things or cry for no apparent reason at all. Because of their deep feelings of sadness and their low energy, people with depression sometimes pull away from people around them or from activities they once enjoyed. This only causes them to feel more lonely and isolated. Depression can be mild or severe. At its worse, depression can crate suicidal thoughts or self- harming tendency among the afflicted people. There are no scientifically proved causes for depression. Many factors play a role including genetics, medical conditions, environment, life events and certain life-style patterns.
The stigma around mental health is very deep-seated in India. People often don’t see it equivalent to physical health. It can be easily understood by an example. If a classmate, colleague or neighbour of yours suffers from cancer even of stage 1, and then four out of five people tend to be sympathetic toward their situation. They try their best to listen to their problems and are always ready to assist help of any kind. But the response of the same people around you changes widely when cancer is substituted with ‘Depression’ or ‘Anxiety’. It is because three out of five people are not well aware with the term depression, and the rest two who have knowledge about it don’t take it seriously enough. So it is palpable how depression is not given its due. Not everyone recognises depression when it happens to someone they know. People, who don’t understand it, may react to the depressed person’s low energy with criticism, scolding them for acting lazy or not trying. Some people mistakenly believe that depression is simply an attitude a person can change or a mood they can shake off. It’s not that easy. Depression is so pain afflicting that without any physical exhaustion, you will feel tired.It becomes so dominant over you that although you are well awake, you just can’t climb out of your bed and start your day, this is depression.
People fail to recognise that mental health is as important as physical health. In fact, the physical and mental health is inter-dependent on each other. Physical illness can be cured with the help of proper medication but mental illness such as depression, sometimes, stays with us throughout our lives. They can best be controlled or cured if the people around them respond with love, kindness and support. The course of stress management should be introduced in schools and colleges, so that the children can be well versed about the symptoms, causes and treatment of depression and other mental disorders. Also, one should be always observant of the “social-misfits” around them as the people whom we often mistake as aloof, shy, introvert or socially inept, are the ones suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental disorders. Emotional disorders can be best treated with the help of therapies as talking is the best cure for them. The things people battling with depression can’t make the normal people understand can be easily communicated to their therapist. But, the bottom line is that people need to talk more about their mental and emotional health. The more they discuss about it, the more people will be inclusive about it. One should always look out for the following symptoms of depression:
- Withdrawal from family, friends and colleagues
- Hopeless attitude and statements
- Loss of interest
- Lack of concentration
- Extreme anger
- Swollen eyes
- Unusual or exaggerated emotional responses
- Unpredictable behaviour
- Talking about quitting
- Suicidal talks, self-destructive behaviour
- Change in appearance, weight and hygiene
- Degradation in academics or work performance
If you observe these symptoms in oneself or people around you, ask for professional help. Seek therapists, online counselling, talk to friends, and try to be among people who you trust and make you feel comfortable. You can follow the given measures if you are at an early stage and don’t want to seek professional help:
- Always engage yourself in any physical activity such as Jogging, Exercise, Yoga, Dancing , Sports, anything that suits you as the hormones generated during physical activities diverge our concentration from bleak thoughts
- Watch inspirational movies or comedy shows or YouTube videos of stand-up comedy acts; try to get a hearty laugh.
- Watch DIY videos on YouTube so that you can bring out your creativity outside and shape it into reality. It will help in self-esteem issues and also channelize your energy into the right place.
- Read books or novels or comic-books, anything that fancies your interest so that your mind’s horizon can expand.
- Maintain journal or if it’s too hard for you, write articles, paragraphs, essays, poems, jokes, short-stories so that a sense of commitment can develop in yourself.
- Besides these exercises, owning a pet is a true stress-buster. You can always have someone will cuddle to you, while watching movies, sleeping or even in a panic attack.
- Once in a while go outdoors, field trips, camping, touring, anything but move your ass, and don’t cage yourself inside. Go outside, amidst the stars and beauty of nature. Feel it. Appreciate it.
- Whenever you are feeling extremely low and lonely, take a walk in your room, house, and garden, drink a glass of water, and talk to a friend or anyone available.
- If you can’t seem to analyse what is troubling you, start writing anything, try to get to the root problem.
- Always surround yourself with positive, happy and constructive people.
The famous satirist Jonathan Swift has criticized the human race in his masterpiece Gulliver’s travels. The protagonist travels to four different fictional worlds – Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Laputa and Houyhnhnms, all of which strives to become a utopian world. But they always lack one aspect of personality- sometimes rationality, sometimes sensitivity. Thus we humans need to have balance between our prose and passion – coordination among physical, mental and emotional health.Only then we can thrive to be a better, joyful and strong person.