WORLD HEALTH DAY 2017: LET’S TALK DEPRESSION


This morning I got a call from the HR at work. They notified me that I’ve been relieved of my duties. What I feel is familiar.   

I’ve felt this way before, I’ve just never really given into this feeling and now nothing holds me back. Sadness comforts me. My sister died six months ago and I’ve been falling into an abyss. I’m forced to eat most of the time and I’ve lost at least 8kg, I have banging headaches that just won’t go away and why should they, when it’s her face I see in my dreams; horrible and accusing.

I even stopped going to church or attending choir practice, there was that fine boy guitarist that I wanted to make a move on me. Now all these things no longer mattered to me. Sade and Jola have stopped calling and visiting, they say I’m being childish and they cannot deal with me.

I’ve begun to think of killing myself; the headaches would definitely stop if I do that. My mum caught me starring at knives and has dragged me to the hospital. The doctor makes a diagnosis of DEPRESSION and has referred me to the psychiatrist.

At the mere mention of depression, a lot of us in this part of the world laugh it off, pushing the person and issue aside or even questioning the person’s sanity and sending him/her to the ‘man of God’. What we fail to know is that while DEPRESSION is commonplace in the western world, it has become an emerging illness in this parts becoming more common than even the conventional ‘common’ illnesses. Depression has been discovered to be the most common cause of disability worldwide. According to the GLOBAL BURDEN OF DISEASE REPORT, this mental illness contributes to 12% of the total burden of disease and is projected to be the leading cause of disability worldwide by 2020. This is more than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined. Surprised right???

Depression is a form of mental illness classified as a mood disorder which is characterized by persistently low mood/ feeling of sadness and loss of interest in previously enjoyed experiences. It affects how one thinks, feels and behaves and if not tackled can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. It could even interfere with day-to-day activities and sometimes the person could feel as if life isn’t worth living which could lead to suicide. 2-5% of the general population are said to be depressed, it is commoner in women than men, and it is associated with high suicide rates SYMPTOMS hence the need for increased awareness, sensitization and support instead of the victimization, hate and rebuke we see everywhere especially on social media.

Let’s not forget that even though depressed mood could be a psychiatric syndrome, just like stress, it could also be a temporary reaction to life events such as bereavement, a sad event, ailments or even a side effect of some drugs or medical treatment so let’s not be quick to term someone ‘depressed’ as diagnosing an episode of depression requires that the symptoms should have occurred continuously for 2 weeks.

Depression episodes could occur multiple times, occurring most of the day and presenting in various ways psychologically, behaviorally and even physically.

Psychological symptoms include depressed mood, loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities, reduced energy, low self-esteem, feelings of guilt and blame on past failures, feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, emptiness or hopelessness, increased or decreased sleep, increased or decreased appetite, pessimistic thoughts, suicidal thoughts , slowed thinking, speaking or body movements.

Behavioral symptoms include angry outbursts, irritability, frustration even in little matters, weeping spells, social withdrawal, avoidance of emotional or sexual intimacy, restlessness, anxiety, agitation

Physical symptoms include heavy feeling in arms and legs, insomnia or hypersomnia, weight loss or gain, headache, muscular tension, heart palpitations.

Many people that show these symptoms had some past/recent bad experience while some others feel generally miserable without really knowing why.

Depression often begins in the teens, 20s or 30s with the average age of onset being 27 years and several life vents’ put a person at risk of developing depression but is not a necessity because some people can develop depression even when there is no known risk factor. The risk factors include family history of depression, childbirth and menopause in women, financial difficulties, rape, relationship troubles and bullying in teens, the type of personality a person has, childhood experiences such as the loss of a parent or abuse, marital status as it has been discovered that separated and divorced persons have high chances of developing depression, adverse life events such as the loss of valuable property, job or the loss of a loved one, being homosexual, bisexual or transgender without support, abuse of alcohol or illegal drugs, certain medications such as high BP or sleeping pills, chronic physical illness such as cancer, stroke or heart disease and even a history of other psychiatric illnesses.

Depression is a serious disorder that can really affect the individual and loved ones if not handled properly as it can result in emotional, behavioral and health problems. Some of the complications include;

–          Excess weight/obesity leading to diabetes and heart disease.

–          Pain and physical illness

–          Alcohol and substance misuse

–          Anxiety, panic disorder and social phobia

–          Family conflicts, relationship issues, work and school problems.

–          Social isolation and possible suicide

–          Self-mutilation

–          Premature death from other medical conditions.

Depression is not a death sentence. It can be treated. So if you feel depressed or know someone that is depressed based on what we have mentioned, it’s time to seek help. See a physician or a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Psychological counseling and medications have proven to be effective in treating depression.


In conclusion
, it is important to note that depression is a mental illness that requires treatment just like malaria or typhoid. So don’t lock up yourself, come out, talk to someone. This is not the time to hide or stigmatize. Share your pain with someone. Also, the love and support shown to depressed people goes a long way in facilitating their recovery. SO STOP THE STIGMA and SHOW SUPPORT to victims!

AUTHOR: Iyanuoluwa Balogun

(MB; BS in view, final year student)

EDITOR: George Uchendu

(MB; BS in view, Final year student)

Health content writer / contributor on http://www.drsade.wordpress.com

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