Depression – a walk down a dark tunnel where the mind can see the light at the end of it as an oncoming train. Depression is a mental disorder that hits humankind as often as the common cold. Still, it isn’t a simple sniffle, depression can take over and ruin a life and certainly the relationships within that life. Depression also links dangerously to suicide and self-harm, which affects teens more. So we need to fight it and tackle it early so people do not walk too far down that dark tunnel into an even darker space. Hope House is passionate about lighting a candle in the darkness that is depression, and helping clients find their way out to the light.
Depression often sets in in the months after a loss or trauma and without special care and medication, can become a long-term illness. Hope House longs to catch depression in its early stages and help to treat it.
So how do we start to understand Depression?
Lets ask a few questions…
What is depression?
Depression is a “feeling of severe despondency or dejection”. Psychology’s guidelines say that one should show signs of depressed mood or irritability most of the day, tearfulness, decreased interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy, weight gain or loss and change in sleep (too much or too little). Depression also often brings feelings of guilt and worthlessness, inability to concentrate and thoughts of suicide.
It sounds tough! But did you know that depression is also a very normal stage of life? When a person is going through mourning or grieving the loss of a loved one, job, relationship, marriage or something treasured in life, depression is part of the grieving process. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are the five stages of grief – and depression is a very real and necessary part of that process. It is only when someone stays in the depression ‘stage’ and it become s permanent – that it requires treatment and some support.
Who does depression affect?
Depression is more present in people between the ages of 45 – 64. It generally affects people of different races, equally. Overall, women have higher rates of depression than men. So that’s the science of it, but really who falls into depression more easily? Well, 1 in 4 women experience their struggle with depression in the months after having a baby – so its linked to hormones (and perhaps loss of sleep and time with friends and family).
Do I have depression?
Take a quick online test to see if you should make an appointment with a counsellor or psychologist who can help diagnose you properly. Doctors, counsellors and psychologists do their best to diagnose well and only they can really tell you if you are suffering from depression.
How is depression treated?
It can be treated easily if caught earlier instead of later. 60-80% of depression can be successfully treated and healed with brief Cognitive Based Therapy (CBT) – offered at Hope House and some medication.
Healing with medication
Medication is often prescribed for a few months and then a doctor sees if the treatment needs to be ongoing. The brain is a machine that needs certain chemicals to work its thoughts and emotions (dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin and more). If these chemicals are in imbalance the brain-machine doesn’t run perfectly. So like any other organ in the body, the brain sometimes needs medicine to heal and stay healed. It is not a sign of weakness if you need to take medication.
For some people the imbalance in the chemicals in their brain is a life-long thing. They will need to take daily medication all their life much like a diabetic takes insulin to stay well. Coming off medication without a doctor’s guidance is very dangerous. At Hope House we are happy to work alongside the miracle that is medication for mental issues.
When does depression strike?
Generally depression affects older people but anyone can suffer from depression. Women can become depressed with post-natal depression in the months after the birth of a child. Its also very common for someone who is mourning a loss to remain in the depression stage of grief. Children can also get depressed – mostly as a result of trauma or loss. However some people are simply genetic predisposed to becoming depressed and it can happen at any time – or throughout life.
Where do people suffer more from depression?
The Middle East and North Africa has the highest rate of depression – with more than twice the number of women in these areas becoming depressed than women in other areas. Women’s rights and conflict in these areas are thought to be the reasons for this high rate of depression. There also seem to be high rates of depression in Nordic countries and Russia. Why would this be? It is true that some people are likely to develop a type of depression aptly called S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder). When days are short and nights are long, the body sometimes goes into a seasonal type of depression because of a cold and dark winter. Special lamps can mimic the sun’s rays and bring some light to this kind of depression.
Genetics, triggering circumstances and mental outlook are all root causes of depression. In women, PMS, a hormonal imbalance or a reaction to the Pill may be triggering a change in mood. Stress is also an important part of depression – whether someone is the CEO of a large company, working two jobs, the mother of toddlers, under financial strain or a refugee in Syria, stress is a huge trigger of depression. We can never compare circumstances and say “I am not going through something as bad as someone else” – we all react to our situation differently. Genetics play a big role and it is true that depression can run in families and can exist alongside Bipolar Disorder and anxiety
What about suicide?
Suicide is intentionally causing one’s own death. There is also something called para-suicide which is an attempt at suicide that is more of a cry for help – just as serious and needing support and care. It is the tenth leading cause of death, worldwide. Researchers have found that over half of people who commit suicide have a major depressive disorder. Bipolar Disorder also has a very high rate of suicide. The final thing that contributes heavily towards suicide is substance abuse – as the highs and lows of drug use swing a person into extremes of mood. Substance abuse also often causes users of drugs to make poor decisions, leading to crises like teenage pregnancies and broken relationships.
To prevent suicide we need to come around a suicidal individual and encourage and support them – even practically with support to find work or with extra child care for example. However, generally severe depression is the cause of suicidal thoughts and NOT circumstances. Encourage your friend or family member to seek counselling at a nearby counselling centre, like Hope House.
NB. Do not blame yourself for someone’s suicide attempts or suicide, it is most often severe depression that is the cause. Everyone asks, “What could I have done better?” Suicide is a very tragic act that leaves ripples of devastation for years and even generations to come. However blaming the suicidal person is misplaced, as the power of severe depression often removes all ability to truly choose from right or wrong or even for them to know the impact of their actions.
What about self-harm?
For some people with depression, anxiety, bipolar, a substance abuse problem, eating disorder or post-traumatic disorder – self harm is a way of coping with the emotional pain they feel inside. Some people who self-harm have not have an underlying mental problem though. Self-harm affects teens and young adults most, although no one is sure why. Many people who self-harm express a relief from emotional pain as they see it expressed in physical pain and injury to themselves. Self-harm is also known to be linked to a history of trauma or abuse. Cutting, burning and pulling out of hair are just a few of the ways that individuals self-harm.
In order to treat a person who is self-harming, the underlying mental condition and the source of the emotional pain needs to be treated. Encourage anyone who is self-harming to go for counselling immediately as various counselling methods have ben found to be very effective in treating this severe condition.
Depression is definitely a dark and lonely place, but equipped with the right knowledge, support and counselling services the lights can definitely go on and hope can be restored.