Are you depressed? This query has come to our mind several times when we were feeling down. Being sad is a part of life and it is not something abnormal. Being worried over an unfortunate event is not depression. So when do we say someone is having depression? Knowing this is essential in correctly diagnosing depression. But more than that, knowing this is very much essential for early identification of depression, because, if not diagnosed and managed early enough, it can even result in suicide.
The diagnosis of depression is as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - 5 criteria for Mental Disorders. At least one of the symptoms should be either ‘a depressed mood’ or ‘a loss of interest or pleasure’. The other symptoms can be weight loss or eating disorders, sleep disturbances, restlessness, fatigue, feeling of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt, inability to think or concentrate and inability to take decisions, thoughts about death and suicidal ideations. At least 4 of these symptoms have to be there along with either one of the first two mentioned here, for nearly every day, for not less than 14 days. That is, diagnosis of depression is a complicated procedure and should be confirmed only by a doctor, preferably a psychiatrist. This realization is important for the general public not only to allay unnecessary fears but also to seek timely help from a health care professional.
Depression, just like diabetes or heart disease, is a disease which should be diagnosed and treated. It should be considered as a different disease entity and not as a part of an individual’s character. It can affect any human being and should not be overlooked. We should not neglect our fellow human beings in the daily rat race we are all running. Community should have mechanisms to identify those who are in need of help. Any individual hinting about depressed mood or ending his or her own life should be taken seriously and a health care professional’s services should be made available.
All human beings require love, care and support irrespective of their social and financial status and providing this will go a long way in ensuring mental health. But depression, as it is a disease like any other, can affect even those individuals who enjoy the best of luxuries and human companionships. This is where the importance of early diagnosis and management sets in and creating awareness among population is a pre-requisite for seeking care. The community has got a big role in this regard too, as taboos and stigma related to mental health is a hindrance in seeking care. Moreover stress management is an important step in this front, in schools, work places or even homes.
The World Health Day 2017 theme, ‘Depression – let’s talk’ gives us a straight solution in tackling this menace. Let all of us discuss this topic in public domains so that more and more people become aware. Let the individuals who are feeling low, talk with their family or friends and seek help. It all comes down to the basic we teach the kindergarten kids –sharing and caring is the way forward.
Dr. Devraj Ramakrishnan,
Assistant Professor, Community Medicine,
Amrita School of Medical Sciences, Kochi, Kerala.