De-stigmatisation is first step to deal with depression

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It was early April when the chirping birds didn’t fascinate me. The blossoms that used to make me smile hardly mattered; the mornings weren’t fresh anymore; going out for movies and outings on weekends were replaced by making up excuses and staying alone at my hostel. I didn’t crack jokes anymore — instead, I hardly managed to bring a smile on my face when someone would share a joke. I stopped being picky about what to wear at work — I ended up wearing the same kurta for a week at work. And in contrast to being the first one to finish the targets, I hardly could muster my strength to at least be the last one. 

It was April when I felt I was changing. For 6 months, I thought and believed it was me. Depression – a misused word, often we use it to label the sadness we face, “I’m depressed.”

Is this it? 

Is depression really just a moment of mood change or is it something crippling? 

We often say, it’s in your control, and that it’s in your mind; don’t pay attention! Is it so easy to waive off depression from your lives? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves.

Depression is an illness that causes significant impairment in your daily living: you can observe sudden changes in mood, behaviour, sleep pattern, eating pattern, ability to think, and concentrate, decision making, loss of interest and fatigue. 

You may feel it is you who is changing — and may not give an effort towards changing it — but whereas it is an illness which has affected your life. If depression is labelled as “I’m suffering from depression” rather than “I’m depressed” then we may be able to treat it as an entity that is damaging.

Depression is not a weakness but a serious mental illness with biological, psychological, and social aspects to its cause, symptoms, and treatment. A person cannot rub it off. Untreated or undertreated, it can worsen or return.

It is seen that depression occurs more often in women than in men. There are differences in manifestations of depression: men may show signs of tiredness, irritability, and anger, they may not accept or acknowledge the fact that they are going through depression and fail to seek help. Women may manifest it as sadness, worthlessness, and guilt.

In younger children depression is more likely to manifest as school refusal, anxiety when separated from parents, and worry about parents dying. Depressed teenagers tend to be irritable, sulky, and get into trouble in school.

Anyone who is witnessing emotional and behavioral changes may also not visit a psychiatrist or a psychologist because of the stigma associated. Often we come across patients who explain that they started off their treatment with a faith healer, then general physicians and — not to forget — advice from people around them. Stigma leads to delay in treatment-seeking and worsening of symptoms.

Initially, it’s the individual who isn’t ready to accept it; then the families find it hard due to the stigma attached and try to find other alternatives to it. When they mess up the whole jigsaw puzzle, and also end up losing some pieces of the puzzle in the process, they think of s

eeking help.  

Depression is treatable only if we consider it just like any other illness and stop stigmatising it. When you feel it, take a step, make a call, make a difference.

It’s Mental Health Week and Zoya Mir, who is pursuing her MPhil in clinical psychology from IMHANS-K, will write seven stories about different mental health issues along with narratives from her patients.

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