“Depression is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens. And the response is something we can choose”
Qamr u Nisa
Everyone feels down at
times. The breakup of a relationship or a bad grade in studies can lead to a low mood. Sometimes sadness comes for no apparent reason. Is there any difference between these shifting moods and what is called depression? Anyone who has experienced an episode of depression would probably answer yes. Depression, as against unhappiness, is characterised by longer and deeper feelings of despondency and the presence of certain characteristic symptoms. This distinction is important, because in severe cases, depression can be life threatening, with suicide as a possible outcome. Depressed people may also fail to live up to their potential, doing poorly in school and staying on the social margins. Depression is frequently ignored or untreated; the condition often prevents people from taking steps to help themselves. This is unfortunate, as effective help is available.
All depression is not the same. There are times when you may feel sad, lonely or hopeless for a few days, but it may not be depression. Major depression is also known as “clinical depression”. It lasts longer and has a disabling effect. It can prevent a person from doing everyday activities. It is more than just a low mood; it is a serious mental health condition.
Signs of Depression
Depressed individuals may experience:
Loss of pleasure in virtually all activities.
Feelings of fatigue or lack of energy.
Difficulty with concentration or memory.
A change in sleep pattern, with either too much or too little sleep.
An increase or decrease in appetite, with a corresponding change in weight.
Feelings of worthlessness and self-blame or exaggerated feelings of guilt.
Unrealistic ideas and worries.
Hopelessness about the future.
Risk of Suicide
A major cause of suicide is mental illness, very commonly depression. People feeling suicidal are overwhelmed by painful emotions and see death as the only way out. Most people who try to kill themselves but survive later say they are glad they didn’t die. Most people who die by suicide could have been helped. An individual considering suicide frequently confides in a friend, who may be able to convince them to seek treatment. When the risk is high, friends and relatives should seek professional guidance.
Suicidal thoughts may be fleeting or more frequent, passive (e.g., “What if I were dead?”) or active (e.g., thinking of ways to kill oneself, making a plan). Preparations for death, such as giving away possessions or acquiring a gun, are cause for great concern. A sudden lift in spirits in a depressed person can be a warning sign that they are planning to kill themselves. Any level of suicidal thinking should be taken seriously.
Suicide can be prevented and most people who feel suicidal demonstrate warning signs. Recognising some of these warning signs is the first step in helping yourself or someone. It is important to know that finding a trigger or cause is not always possible, and treatment can still be successful.
The writer is studying for a BA at Women’s College Anantnag. [email protected]