Why we must talk mental health
Depression is no laughing matter; it is a disease and requires professional attention.
A 45 year old woman visits a doctor complaining of sleeping problems and lack of appetite. She also informs her doctor that she can go two days without eating any meals and this has caused her to lose a lot of weight. She complains about not being excited about life, and that she has recently started drinking a lot too. She said this all started six weeks ago when she found out that her husband had been cheating on her.
A husband and wife in their late 40’s visit a marriage counsellor. During the session, the wife tells the counsellor that her husband has been coming home drunk almost every night and most times returns home in the early hours of the morning. He has also started watching television for hours and hours, which is something he never used to do. She tells the counsellor that her husband is a building contractor but hasn’t had any projects in a while.
In the scenarios above, both patients are most likely suffering from Major Depressive Disorder; a medical condition loosely known as depression.
Depression is a mood disorder that has been present in an individual for at least two weeks. It is characterised by one or more major depressive outbursts. It is more common in females although a large number of men still go through depression. Clinical depression in men is not commonly recognised because men deny having any problems for fear of being seen as weak. Men tend to mask their depression by over-drinking in bars, staying out late, watching too much television etc.
Depression is usually seen in people in their late 20’s and the prevalence increases with age. But it is pertinent to note that about 15 per cent of patients with depression end up committing suicide!!! This is a large percentage therefore the earlier we know more about this disease, the better we are as a society.
The issue of mental health has not received the attention it deserves, especially here in Nigeria. Though it is almost brushed off or seen as something that is comical, it is no laughing matter. Instead of using social media to mock those that suffer from this condition, it is far better to use it and spread awareness about depression and offer solutions to help people.
Different people suffering from depression experience different symptoms but the most common symptoms can be summarized with a mnemonic ‘S I G E C A P S’.
S: Sleep Changes- Hypersomnia (sleeping too much) or Insomnia (lack of sleep)
I: Loss of Interest
G: Guilt (feelings of worthlessness)
E: loss of Energy; Fatigue
C: Loss of Concentration
A: Appetite Changes; Lack of appetite or Overeating
P: Changes in Psychomotor Agitation- Purposeless leg-shaking, restlessness, extremely slow movements, etc.
S: Suicidal thoughts
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, the good news is that there is a cure for depression. Not only is there a cure for depression, the even better news is that 70 to 80 per cent of people that take medications for depression actually get treated. So why not give it a try, rather than suffer and be miserable. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms so they can advise on the best medication that would restore your mind and body back to optimal health.
The best treatment for depression is known as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake inhibitors). Serotonin is a ‘happy chemical’ and these drugs help to prevent this chemical from being excreted and keep it in the body much longer. Examples of SSRIs include Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine, Sertraline (Zoloft) etc.
In addition to pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy has also been proven to be effective. Psychotherapy helps to reduce depression by teaching patients how to identify negative conditions and triggers and helps them to develop positive ways of thinking.
Another way a depressed patient can benefit is by being affiliated with support groups. In a case whereby one does not have access to these social support groups, the family unit can act as a good support system for the patient. This is very important because continuous affirmation and uplifting with encouraging words would gradually elevate one’s mood out of depression.
Lastly, electroconvulsive therapy might be useful for very severe cases when the initial therapy does not work, or if the patient is acutely suicidal. In patients that are suicidal, it is best that they are admitted to the hospital immediately. Electroconvulsive shock therapy would be used on such a patient afterwards followed by antidepressant medications.
Depression is very real and very prevalent in our society and we just have to come to terms with that fact.
In November 2015, former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, stated in a public address that 48 million Nigerians suffer from depression; that is almost one-fourth of the nation! An alarming 800,000 people die of depression yearly and there is nothing funny about that! It is very important to recognise the symptoms of this illness so that we can be able to help out a loved one who might be in need of some compassion, support or medical attention. Just remember….depression could happen to anyone!
Disclaimer: The medical information provided here by Dr. Nini Iyizoba is provided as an information resource only. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment