By Annan Boodram – The Caribbean Voice (TCV)
Depression is much more widespread than one would expect. In fact, depression has been increasing on a global scale:
- It is responsible for more deaths than homicides. Globally, close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year whereas about 400,000 die due to homicides. Given that 75 percent of suicide deaths are due to depression it’s clear that depression has more fatalities than homicides globally;
- Affects over 300 million people worldwide, across cultures, age groups, genders, religions, race or economic status;
- Is one of the most debilitating conditions globally, with severe depression rated in the same disability category as terminal stage cancer;
- Is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease;
- It is a major cause of morbidity worldwide.
As someone who has lived with depression all my life I can say with certainty that depression is like a parasite; it is difficult to dislodge, even when living conditions seem to indicate that there are no grounds for it. It stays hidden, always emerging to the fore when circumstances feed it.
Until TCV became involved in our current abuse and suicide prevention campaign, I was woefully unaware of exactly what I was facing, which is the case with far too many people. Now, however, there is self-awareness and thus an understanding that enables me to wrestle control. But each second, each minute, each hour and each day is a struggle not to give in; a struggle to stay engaged even in life’s fundamental needs such as maintaining basic health and hygiene, staying focused on errands and goals, remaining socially and creatively engaged, and a struggle to not let the darkness become overpowering and order transformed into a frightening, endless maze.
However, as strong as a person can be, there is always this niggling fear that at any instant the will can become weakened enough to plunge one into a bottomless pit from where there are no upward surge and finality steps in. It is in this pit that even those with literally everything – fame, power, wealth, celebrity status – engage in that last fatal act of taking their lives.
Thus while awareness building is critical, in addition to the need for more work in this respect by the government, the media also has an important role to play. More people are urged to come forward and share their experiences, either with the media or with NGOs like The Caribbean Voice. But the media should also more frequently publish articles that focus on depression – symptoms, self-management and seeking help – so that the general public becomes familiar with the symptoms and instead of labeling sufferers, display empathy and get help for them.
Symptoms of depression include:
- Weight loss or weight gain;
- Perpetually feeling tired and drained;
- Low feelings to feelings of absolute total despair;
- Difficulty focusing and making decisions;
- Extreme focus on a specific task or purpose;
- Loss of interest in activities and relationships;
- Feelings of guilt and/or worthlessness;
- Difficulty remembering past events, words or details;
- Frequent thoughts of death and suicide;
- Compromised (lessened) or excessive sleep;
- A lack of pleasure in activities;
- Anxiety, restlessness or a conversely, a slowing down;
- Ruminating, constantly recalling, pondering, deliberating and pouring over issues’;
- Extreme irritability over seemingly minor things;
- Trouble with anger management;
- Fixation on the past or on things that have gone wrong;
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
If you or someone you know experiences five or more of the above, contact a counselor, therapist or medical professional — diagnosis begins with consulting a mental health professional.
It is very important to know that depression is not sadness, weakness, nor feeling sorry for yourself. It is not being unable to handle regular emotions nor is it unhappiness, moodiness, or laziness. It is not a passing problem nor is it weird.
Depression is both a brain disorder and a state of mind. It represents 99 percent of all mind-brain illness. It results from a complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors. People who have gone through adverse life events (unemployment, bereavement, psychological trauma) are more likely to develop depression. Depression can, in turn, lead to more stress and dysfunction and worsen the affected person’s life situation and depression itself.
Depression is like being drowned in darkness, heavy as lead; the sufferer finds it difficult to move, see, think, or even breathe. It is a very serious medical illness, which can have several levels of severity and it is persistent. It will impact interests and the ability to fully appreciate and enjoy life and can affect physical health as well as emotional wellbeing. Episodes can last from morning to night and may continue for a day to weeks, to an average of six to eight months. It can even be a lifetime issue.
The umbrella of depression encompasses Major/Persistent Depressive Disorder and its related mood disorders including bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, psychotic depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, seasonal depression, anxiety disorder, and suicide. Also, there are interrelationships between depression and physical health. For example, cardiovascular disease can lead to depression and vice versa.
However, your choices can make it better or worse. Avoid social media. People on these websites generally seem so happy. You know it’s mostly a show, but your subconscious will respond to the images. So leave it alone. Also, avoid reaction-based traps, such as excessive or engrossing practices, which feel like an escape but are really traps. Embrace music, exercise, the outdoors, and new hobbies and group activities.
The foods you avoid/eat can also play an enormous role in addressing your depression. The change will be difficult at first, but keep going; it will be worth it. Avoid foods such as:
Flour and sugar which are like drugs, they lift you up and drop you down, creating and maintaining a deadly cycle;
- Processed and/or red meats;
- Margarine and fake butter;
- Alcohol which is not a mood booster but a depressant;
- Caffeine, which is known not to help depression. Green tea is a better choice.
Use foods such as:
- Whole-grain carbohydrates;
- Ground provisions, such as sweet potato;
- Dark green leafy vegetables;
- Colorful vegetables;
- Fresh fruit and berries;
- Dark chocolate (70 percent or above);
- Free-range poultry, including turkey, rich in the amino acid tryptophan which is used by your body to make serotonin;
- Legumes, nuts, seeds, and beans;
- Fish, including deep-sea salmon;
- Fermented foods, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, natural yogurt;
- Many other healthy natural foods, including mushrooms, walnuts, flaxseed.
Incidentally, this combination of foods to avoid and to use respectively has a number of side benefits, including helping to manage physical pain, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
The Caribbean Voice (TCV) can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or via What’s App at 646-461-0574 and 592-664 1152. Please contact us to help you help yourself or your loved ones and become involved in our abuse and suicide prevention mission.