Many of us are shocked when we hear the deaths of well-known celebrities such as Chester Bennington from Linkin Park, DJ Avicii, Kim Jonghyun from Korean group named Shinee and Kate Spade, the fashion designer. Celebrities are just like any other human being, they too face some struggles in their lives and there are times when they need help. They may look happy on the outside, but who knows they may be going through some hard times, struggling to make it through each day? Mental illnesses are difficult to be detected physically, hence we should all equip ourselves with knowledge and awareness about different types of mental illnesses.
Depression, also known as clinical depression or major depressive disorder, is one of the most common mental disorders worldwide. According to World Health Organization (WHO), currently, there are more than 300 million people suffering from depression globally and it is the second leading cause of disability. In Malaysia, it is estimated that there are approximately 3 million Malaysians suffering from depression and this number will increase due to a variety of factors. Depression is projected to be the leading cause of disability in Malaysia by 2030.
What is depression? Depression is neither occasionally feeling blue, nor an act to seek for more attention. Everybody feels sad once in a while but when one is depressed, the feeling of sadness can be so overwhelming that it impairs your important areas of functioning such as occupational, social, etc. You tend to feel that there is no light at the end of the tunnel and nothing seems to be able to cheer you up. You can even be so drowned in sadness that sometimes suicidal thoughts come across your mind.
Am I depressed or am I just feeling sad?
Some symptoms which occur almost every day for people with depression are as follows:
- Persistent sadness
- Significant loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities
- Significant change in weight or appetite
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Feeling of worthlessness or excessive guilt
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
- Observable slowdown in psychomotor skills
According to the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria, if 5 or more out of 9 symptoms (at least one of the symptom must be either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure) above are present for at least 2 weeks or more and if the symptoms have impaired one’s important areas of functioning, the person is said to have major depressive episode. Hence, if you notice yourself or someone close to you is experiencing some of the symptoms above, do not hesitate to seek medical advice from healthcare providers. The earlier you receive competent treatment, the more effective it is. The fact that we sometimes hear that people who have depression cannot be cured is a misconception. It is possible for people with depression to recover if they receive treatments which work optimally for them.
Why do people get depression?
There is apparently no one answer to this question but depression develops due to a complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors. For example:
- Serious illnesses
- Biological factors
- Significant life events (e.g. death of loved ones)
- Family history of depression
- Substance abuse
- Other adverse personal problems
Depression is a serious mental disorder that everybody should be aware of as the illness may exacerbate if not treated as quickly as possible and it adversely affects a person’s daily life. We should all pay more attention to people around us as depression can sometimes be observed from a person’s thoughts and behavior. If a person’s functioning, be it at school, work or socially, is impaired, the person may likely be facing depression. Instead of stigmatizing and labeling them as crazy or insane, we should advise those with depressive symptoms to seek appropriate treatment and at the same time, we should constantly shower them with care and support. This is because people with depression are likely to have suicidal thoughts and the last thing we want is for them to take their lives away or even think of taking their lives away, knowing the illness can be treated. According to WHO, one person dies from suicide every 40 seconds, and there are approximately 800,000 people who die from suicide every year. This number is definitely greater for those who attempt suicide. Hence, if we want to prevent seeing people we know falling into the vicious consequences of depression, we should start looking out for people who show the signs of depression but first, all of us need to understand depression inside out.