Clinical depression is one of the medical illnesses, in which one is subjected to a prolonged state of sadness and loss of interest, in virtually everything they find interesting before. It seems as if one’s future is bleak, accompanied by feelings of emptiness, worthlessness and self-guilt. Clinical depression has culminated into a silent killer, especially among Nigerian youths. A kryptonite that usually lead to suicidal thoughts and eventually suicide itself. According to a new study by World Bank, 22% of Nigerians suffer from chronic depression. Staggering! Unfortunately, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated, with many having a stark reluctance to seek help. A reason fuelled by having a feeling of contempt from the stigma encompassing it and most times – inability to open up due to fear of abject ridicule. In Africa, depression is always posited to be a white man’s illness. An African man is believed to be mentally tough, not allowing any ‘storm’ coming his way to weigh him down. Hence, anyone with visible signs of depression, is possessed by a demon and needs to be exorcised. The Nigerian man is always under an incessant peer pressure to get rich or face the impending societal shame of being tagged a failure. Likewise, a girl is expected to get married at her twenties, lest she would be perceived as having a bad aura, ill-mannered and cajoled against her wish.
In 2014, the World Health Organization ranked depression as the second leading cause of suicides among 15 to 29-year-olds. There are lots of depression signs and symptoms and they vary from person to person. It may occur once in a lifetime, but some people usually have recurring episodes.
Here are signs and symptoms of clinical depression :
~ Persistent thoughts of death and suicide.
~ Great difficulty in thinking, concentration, decision making and remembrance.
~ Feelings of hopelessness and solitude – no light at the end of the tunnel. Insomnia or oversleeping.
~ Criticizing yourself for perceived fault and mistakes.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that less than 10% of people who get depressed, are diagnosed and treated effectively. Depression is completely treatable and most patients respond well to treatment. Before treatment, proper diagnosis is done, including interview and physical examination with the patient. Blood samples are sometimes collected and tested to make sure the cause is not from a medical condition like problems from the thyroid.
~ Administration of Antidepressants – depression can be caused by the imbalance of the brain neurotransmitters. These antidepressants help revamp the brain chemistry. With improvement and relief kick starting from the first or second week of administration. Perhaps, if no apparent improvement is noticed after several weeks, the medication should be changed. Treatment should be continued, even if the symptoms improve after a long period of time, to generally reduce the risk of recurrences.
~ Psychotherapy – it helps the depressed individual ascertain the exact underlying factors contributing to their depression symptoms and how best to tackle them so as to prevent future episodes. In psychotherapy, the psychotherapist and the depressed patient are expected to have an elaborate discussion.
~ Electroconvulsive Therapy – it is a treatment given to patients with chronic depression and did not responded to other treatments. It involves the electrical stimulation of the brain while the patient is under anesthesia within a short period of time. Usually given to the patient twice or thrice a week, for a total of six to twelve treatment sessions.
Every Nigerian has an important role to play in tackling depression as it is no longer a topic to be ignored. Don’t die in silence, talk to someone you trust about it. Depression is lethargic; no stone should be left unturned in its fight.