Depression is a common illness that affects over 264 million people worldwide. It is a condition that affects an individual’s ability to function mentally and or physically. It does affect not only the individual’s mood but also their physical health. It can lead to weight changes, chronic pain and even a reduction in productivity. Depression is a medical problem, just like heart disease or diabetes.
Most individuals living with depression describe themselves as feeling irritated over small issues. They usually do not look forward to spending time with others. Some say they are tired all the time and have eating disorders.
People living with this disorder do not have to worry about this illness alone; they also have to worry about the stigma and insensitivity of others. Sometimes, people living and working with depressed individuals invalidate their condition. Thus, they feel being silent is the only viable option. Some of them are afraid that other people do not understand what they are going through. Some of them are ashamed of the condition. They feel socially detached and labelled after the illness. They feel as though others cannot see past their condition.
It is essential to know that depression is not a choice; it can happen to anybody. A lot of depressed individuals have been told that their reason for being depressed was pathetic and unreasonable. When others find out that they are taking antidepressants and or seeing a therapist for the condition, they hear things like, ‘it is never that serious’, ‘you have a lot of money to waste’, ‘you should pray over it’, ‘you should get out more often’. While the intentions of these people might be pure, depressed individuals do not appreciate this language.
If you are reading this and you have never experienced depression, here are some words/phrases for you to avoid when conversing with those who do:
· You will get over it
· It is just a mood swing
· You don’t look like you are depressed
· Stop worrying
· Everyone gets depressed sometimes
· I know exactly how you feel
But it is not all bad, helping people living with depression is easier than you think. A simple, ‘how are you today?’ goes a long way. Try not to empathize falsely as this can be easily picked up. Be genuine, treat them with compassion and understanding as you would treat a diabetic or hypertensive patient. Let your actions be more audible than your words. Take them on walks, be there to laugh and play with them. Respect their boundaries. Be supportive, do not always voice out your opinions about the condition around them. As frustrated as you might be over their mood, understand that they feel worse. Being depressed is not being weak; it is being sick.
Depression can be managed, and the affected individuals must learn how to live with the condition. Some critical steps should be taken to elevate one’s mood and help recover from depression.
1. Medications: A person dealing with depression must take their medications as prescribed, even after you start to feel better. Just like any other medication, antidepressants have side effects. It is important to discuss whatever side-effects you may be experiencing with your doctor.
2. Diet and Exercise: A healthy diet can make tremendous changes to your mood. Eating healthy is as important for your mental health as it is for your physical health. Research shows that exercising may be as useful as antidepressants in the management of depression. So, take up running or skipping or dancing or any exercise you are comfortable with.
3. Talk about it: Share your problem with someone or a group that is ready to listen to you. There are many friendly and competent therapists, as well as support groups. If you do not feel comfortable about speaking to someone, then write about it. Express yourself in whatever form of art that you like.
4. Avoid illicit drugs: Avoid smoking cigarettes, shisha, cannabis, opioids and alcohol. If you are an addict, seek help.
5. Avoid stressors: Avoid emotional and environmental stressors like social media, work, finances or individuals that stress you out. Do not forget to check your stress levels. Knowing how to manage your stress is vital.
6. Pay attention: Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. Some call this awareness “mindfulness”.
In conclusion, living with depression is not easy for the depressed and those around them. However, everyone has a role to play in ensuring that individuals living with depression can live above it and recover. If you feel there is an immediate danger to a depressed person, stay with them or have someone stay with them.
A depressed person must speak up, but it is much more important that you listen.
Written by Idowu Mary
Idowu Mary is a fifth year medical student at Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD),She is a writer on multiple blogs and also teaches creative writing. She is the brain behind the writing outfit - Write with Mary. She is a mental health advocate, who seeks to educate the public on truth about mental health and its challenges.