Our expert clinical Psychologist Aman Gouri throws light on depression
“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Depression, a most common but severely disabling condition which affects an individual’s all aspects of life from personal relationships, social sphere and occupational life. It makes the person trapped with overwhelming sense of numbness, a constant and never ending feeling of losing oneself every day and the deep sadness that cannot be explained. In Indian context, a recent survey reported an overall prevalence of 15.9% for people with depression in their life time (Bromet E, Andrade et. al, 2011), which is expected to become a disease burden by the year 2030 (W.H.O, Global burden of disease report, 2004 update).
There is enough information about the causes and explanations regarding a person going into depression, its sign and symptoms. But the matter of concern is what one should do best to come out from this condition and most importantly what people who are around the person (with depression) are doing or should do. Apart from medication and psychotherapy the perception, attitude and awareness about depression in the society and people as a whole especially in a country like India is contributes significantly in the overall recovery with of depression and a change in this perspective towards a constructive and positive direction can make things a lot different than it is now. This can include from common factors like general awareness about mental illnesses; information about depressive disorders and how it affects a person’s mental health and other aspects of life to specific factors like the ability of the significant others to identify the subtle signs and changes in one’s behaviour and personality and the subsequent understanding to address the same at the right time before it goes worse or take a bad form. Depression when goes unnoticed or untreated at the correct time can manifest and can turn in to anxiety disorders, alcohol or addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder and even schizophrenia.
It is high time to look in to the factors outside the person’s symptoms as cause or a maintaining factor for depression. Reducing the stigma attached to depressive disorders will help in improving the help seeking behaviours of the people with depression and can have substantial impact on reduction in suicide rates. Some of the common perception towards person with depression as reported by some of the patients family members and significant others are “it is just a phase he will overcome it or it will pass with time”, “he is always like that”, “it is not condition severe enough to be to go to a doctor” “she does that to get attention or what he wants, “she is so good in her area and doing her daily routine, she can’t be depressed” In some of the instances the repercussions have been serious enough, where it has made the treatment difficult leading to increase in the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness which becomes ultimately the cause of other serious disorders and suicide. Other common attitudes and perceptions are why and how can be a person have depression as there is not obvious reason to give for it, while others reasons people give are “it only occurs in certain socio-economic statuses” or “I can’t be depressed.”
It is high time that we realise that there is a need to bring a change in these perceptions and attitudes for a complete healing of this debilitating condition. There is strong need for a shift in the way we are looking at it. A non-judgemental attitude and more acceptance of the problem will aid in a complete and long-lasting recovery. This change itself can bring a sense of positivity and feeling of less pain in people with depression. Support from the family members and significant others is another important factor which directly affects in the progress of the person. It can be in the form of having a non-critical attitude, being able to get him a professional help at the right time or as simple as emotional support – just be there and being available for the person to hear him out. As one of the patient rightly said- “Sometimes you just need someone to tell that you are not as terrible as you think you are.”