DEPRESSION … A SILENT KILLER
Written by: Zama Ngcoya
Although the 10th of October is celebrated annually as World Mental Health Day with the objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world, the issue of depression is one which still remains very taboo in many corners of the world. In most homes, it is a subject either ignored, considered as “the white man’s illness”, or completely misunderstood. However, many people suffer from it on a daily basis.
According to psychologist Candice Leith, from the Durban University of Technology, depression can be described as an illness.
“Depression is a mental illness that involves the body, mood and thoughts. It can involve a number of feelings including sadness, frustration, anger and disappointment. It interferes with daily life and normal functioning,” said Leith.
She added that everyone has an equal chance of experiencing depression. However, there is a genetic link but it does not mean you will get depression. Learnt coping skills and resilience can be protective factors.
Although depression is not immediately visible, or diagnosable, the most common signs of depression to look out for include the loss of interest in daily activities, loss of energy, sleep changes, loss of appetite or weight changes, anger or irritability, self-loathing, reckless behaviour and concentration difficulties. The psychosomatic symptoms are aches and pains. These symptoms need to be evident for two weeks or more.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is the most common mental disorder in the world. More than 350 million people of all ages suffer from it. Studies conducted over the years have indicated a concerning increase in the number of people who have succumbed to depression. Statistics released by WHO indicate that around one million people die from suicide in the world.
For Kelebogile Selebano, a second year student in Bachelor of Science in Life Sciences, suicide always seemed like the easy way out whenever depression began gnawing away at her serenity.
“I was thinking of taking my life on a regular basis. One day I just decided to down pills just to try to sleep long enough to have peace of mind. I have tried taking my own life several years ago but I never told anyone, except for my dad,” said the recently diagnosed Selebano.
She added that her mental health often leaves her questioning the significance of life.
“I just feel like life is not worth living and I get seriously despondent at the thought that this could be my life for years to come.”
Leith advised that people who might be suffering from depression to seek help as soon as possible.
“Individuals who are depressed may seek support from family or friends or speak to a professional such as a doctor or psychologist. Depression does not necessarily lead to suicide, but the person may have an increased risk. If a client is suicidal, a proper risk assessment is done and supportive psychotherapy, referral to doctor or psychiatrist for anti-depressant if needed.”
*Picture: Medication taken to heal illnesses