In this part of the world, that’s usually our first reaction when we hear someone is suffering from depression. We tend to be unsympathetic and feel as though the person is taking the easy way out of the hustles of daily living. Life in a developing country is a struggle, most of the time, the systems (if they are in place) don’t work so it can be a very trying exercise just living. Either you are chasing civil servant to do his/her job, following up with the electricity provider on when your lights are coming back on, going from one gas filling station to another with an empty cylinder looking for gas, or rushing to the hospital at the crack of dawn so you can join the long queue to see the specialist (even though you have an appointment). With all these hustles, who has time to be depressed?
So we conclude that the person was idle, not working or hustling hard enough that’s how come depression was able to set in. And we give ourselves mental high-fives, feeling as though we are superior beings, not susceptible to depression or any other mental health illness……till it happens to us or someone close to us.
When it happens to someone close to us, our initial reaction is bafflement – we say things like ‘ah but this guy/girl paa, where did this one too come from?’, then if its someone we’ve known for a long time, we start scratching our heads trying to remember whether we missed any telling signs. Next we try to rationalise why the person has gotten this way – we either link it to witchcraft and suggest the this ‘powerful man of God’ for the person to go to for deliverance, or if the person has a high IQ, we attribute it to the brain working too fast or something. We do this, I believe, so we can take ourselves out of the pool of people susceptible to depression.
Since depression is caused by a chemical imbalance and/or unhappiness due to our circumstances, we are all susceptible to it; for most, the trigger that will activate it hasn’t been pulled. Most who go into depression due to unhappiness are able to come out of it on their own when their circumstances changes. Others may have to ‘talk to someone’ before the fog gets lifted. There’s no shame in admitting you need help and seeing a psychologist/psychiatrist – they went to school for this purpose so allow them to put it to use.
Those with bipolar or clinical depression would need a combination of drugs and therapy – the drugs are usually taken for life.
If you have a friend or a loved one in this situation:
- Don’t avoid him/her – underneath the fog, the person you knew is still there
- Don’t pretend all is well and normal – it isn’t! Talk about it with the person if s/he is inclined to, let him/her know its nothing to be ashamed of
- If you can, go and visit the person if s/he is admitted into a psychiatric hospital; your presence would lift the person’s spirits
- Don’t walk on eggshells around the person, treat him/her as you normally would especially after being discharged from the hospital.
- Try not to be impatient or unsympathetic when s/he is having an ‘episode’, remember it’s a disease and under normal circumstances the person would probably be mortified to realise s/he is behaving in such a manner.
- When you are in the why-can’t-s/he-snap-out-of it mode, avoid contact with the person, work through your anger and frustration in your cubbyhole and come back out when you have it under control.
May is Mental Health Awareness month (apparently), so let’s give our mental faculties the same care we give our body when we are sick. These days there are online psychologists you could talk to who can guarantee anonymity if you don’t want it known you are seeing someone.
IF YOU NEED HELP, GET IT!!!
Disclaimer: I am not a trained psychologist or anything, I just have buddies in this situation, one of whom ended his life; which was a wakeup call for me to stop thinking – what did he have to be depressed about?