Understanding Depression

Via @lifehackorg @DoSomething.org #Suicide.Org @Guardian_UK @PsychCentral

Depression via The Guardian

Yesterday an article in one of our local South Afican papers, Maroela Media, shocked the country. A beautiful, talented 14-year old girl jumped to her death from the second storey of a popular mall in Northern Johannesburg. Her parents were caring and considerate, they knew about her worries and she was receiving treatment, yet she still felt it was necessary to take her own life. I cannot imagine the pain those parents are going through….to think that, despite their efforts, their child was still silently suffering.

Recently I heard someone say that for every statistic, be it murder, suicide or death by natural causes, a family is torn apart by grief. One should never lose sight of that….death causes pain, but imagine the guilt and confusion when someone commits suicide, when someone suffers from depression, yet hide it so effectively that none is the wiser.

Depression is a disease of our times; everyone suffers under the stress and strain, not to mention the trauma, of daily life. Children in pre-school are already pressured into performance, they are measured by a certain yard-stick, they are boxed and packaged and, if they do not fit, they are bullied, scolded and isolated from the ”group”. That is only the beginning….and only at school. Have you noticed how many children in school come from broken homes? Single-parent homes? Children torn in a battle between Mom and Dad, children shunted from one home to another, children with alcoholic parents, children with deceased parents, abandoned children….the list goes on and on and, in the meantime, the pressure builds.

In adolescence it only grows….trying to fit in with the crowd, battling to make your grades, please your parents, please your teachers, perform well in extra-curricular activities…and, of course, the old teenage-angst…the hormones going every which way, the love triangles, etc, etc.

Adulthood brings more responsibility, more stress –  money problems, relationship problems, being pressured into having a successful career, being the best mother/father/spouse, competing on a social level with the in-crowd….it simply never stops. And I am not even talking about the conflict we are bombarded with every day in the media…it seems that the whole world is a confusion of death, war, famine, disease, natural disasters…life is truly overwhelming and many people, adults and children, may feel they are not merely living anymore, they are simply surviving.

Therefore it is no wonder that, when I Googled ”depression, statistics” I immediately got a startling result. Have a look:

[Statistics and information via DoSomething.org]

  1. 1 in 4 young adults will suffer an episode of depression before age 24.
  2. More than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression globally.
  3. The WHO estimates that depression will be the 2nd highest medical cause of disability by the year 2030, 2nd only to HIV/AIDS.

Keeping in mind the connection between depression and suicide, I continued and had a look at the statistics for global incidents of suicide.

[Statistics via Suicide.org and The Guardian UK]

  1. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29
  2. Over one million people die by suicide worldwide each year
  3. The global suicide rate is 16 per 100.000 population.
  4. On average, one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds somewhere in the world.
  5. 1.8% of worldwide deaths are suicides
  6. In the past 45 years, global suicide rates have increased with 60%

This is indeed frightening, isn’t it? To think that people we see everyday, those that we pass on the street, family, friends, may hide this dark secret, this terrible pain…and when they take the final step, we wonder how we could have missed the signs. What could we have done to prevent it?

Dr Shekhar Saxena, director of the department of mental health and substance abuse at the WHO said: ”Suicidal tendencies are transitory. People who have an intense desire to commit suicide grab the nearest possible means. If you can restrict their access, even for a few hours, you can save a lot of lives. People think about it and talk to people and decide not to do it.” [Via The Guardian UK.]

The question remains: How do we prevent suicide? Depression lies at the root of suicidal tendencies and if we are well versed in the typical symptoms of depression, we may be able to save a life.

[Information via PsychCentral.com]

Typical symptoms of clinical depression:

  1. Constant depressed mood – feelings of sadness and emptiness. People may appear tearful, morose or irritable.
  2. Diminished interest in activities that previously brought pleasure. Person may seem brooding and isolated.
  3. Significant weight loss or weight gain or decrease or increase of appetite.
  4. Insomnia or hypersomnia.
  5. Psychomotor agitation or retardation.
  6. Constant fatigue or loss of energy
  7. Constant feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt.
  8. Inability to concentrate or to think clearly. Person seems indecisive.
  9. Recurrent thoughts of death or recurrent suicidal ideation or suicide attempt. [More details on symptoms can be found here.]

If you think someone you know may be in danger, please do not hesitate to confront them directly. Sometimes all these people need is just someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on…a friend that will understand.

The infograph below, compiled by Lifehack.com, will provide more information about the nature of depression. Understanding the disease is the first step in conquering it and, perhaps, saving a precious life.

Lifehack.org

PsychCentral

The Guardian

 

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