Globally, Depression stands as the top cause of disability among young and the elderly populations.WHO report on Mental Health in India (2015-16) It is a lot more common than we realize. That energetic friend of yours who used to be the life of your class suddenly goes quiet and looks lethargic all the time. Is she depressed? Maybe not. But the question needs to be dealt with. Know the signs to identify Depression in the people you know.
1. Unusual sadness/Irritability
This is one of the first signs exhibited by people who may be in Depression. Although experiencing sadness and irritability alone cannot be equated with Depression. But if these persist over time ( >2 weeks) one should consider the possibility of Depression
2. Fatigue/unexplained physical aches or pains
Many people aren’t able to grasp what is happening within their minds when they go through Depression. The more they try to figure it out or fight it, the more fatigued and drained they feel both physically and mentally. It causes them to feel lethargic all the time. This leads us to the next sign one should look for.
Depression has two sides like a coin. Some people become increasingly anxious when in depression, making it hard for them to fall asleep. Some experience such a deep void of meaninglessness that they withdraw from almost everything. The former find it difficult to sleep while for the latter, sleep may be the only escape from this mental agony.
4. Loss of Pleasure/withdrawal from activities once enjoyed
Withdrawal may not only be from academic/work related activities but even from the things they loved to do. Depression may be like a sensory disorder of the brain which paralyzes it, keeping it from experiencing pleasure in almost anything.
5. Changes in appetite: Loss of appetite/Binge eating
The Mental distress may be so severe that it leads to loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss. Food no longer brings joy or satisfaction. Others start binge eating out of their distress. It again serves as an escape for them from the negative thought process.
6. Feelings of worthlessness, excessive and inappropriate guilt
People may or may not express the thoughts that go on in their minds, that depends a whole lot on the personality of the individual. But if you notice someone expressing the same feeling of “I am a loser”, ” I am not good at ANYTHING”, ” Why am I even here?” over and over again, it may be a sign of them slipping into depression.
7. Difficulty concentrating/confused
That often happens because people struggling with Depression find it hard to halt the devastating thought process within their minds. They are constantly fighting and losing a mental battle and find themselves unable to concentrate on the task at hand.
8. Observable slowing of movements or speech or agitation
Often times in Depression, the heart and the mind of the person is weighed down and mundane daily tasks may seem very hard to accomplish. Speaking alone becomes a TASK! For others, they become unusually agitated, often without genuine reason. It may not be reflective of the circumstances and people around them but of the mental storm, they are weathering.
9. Suicidal Tendencies/ self-harm
Last but definitely not the least, Depression often leads to suicidal tendencies. People never know about a person’s mental state until after they commit suicide. This may be largely because the victim is unable to comprehend and control the mental chaos and therefore fails to understand that he/she, in fact, need help. Overwhelming agony drives them to end their lives. That’s a prime reason why we should look for these signs in someone exhibiting an altered mental state and reach out to them.
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-24 years. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
SAVE: Suicide awareness and Voices of Education
If you hear, ” Why am I even alive?” , “What’s the point in living like this? “, “It would have been better if I was never born!” these are the Red flags. People with such a thought process should not be left alone. Talking and consoling them is of crucial and professional help must be sought.
The next time you find someone exhibiting these signs, approach them. A keen observation of the people around you can prove lifesaving.
What to do when you find out its Depression
How affected people must have wished for Depression to be like a common cold! Slip a pill down your throat and that’s it! you’re alright. But it is that simple. It is profound and far more complex.
My experience tells me that, often, it’s not a single factor responsible for Depression. It is multi-factorial. The only way to understand each and every one of them is to Listen.
“My grades are getting worse with every sem and there’s not much I’m able to do about it. Thoughts of a being a failure in life are crowding my mind.”
Listener: “This is a crucial sem and this must be very hard for your right now, tell me more about it.”
“I don’t know, I don’t feel like doing anything. My parents, they just don’t get it. They know how hard I have worked. I can’t do it any more.”
Listener : Do you feel pressurized by your family on doing well?
“Yeah, They expect a lot from me. I have tried. But they don’t seem to notice my struggle. I feel worthless.”
Listening and asking the right questions can give you so much insight about what’s really going on in a person’s mind. Looking at the first sentence, one would assume that its just the inability to do well academically that is weighing down on his mind. But in fact, it was the adamant parental expectation coupled with the work pressure. Lack of self-worth arises with such dangerous complications. And when you continue to listen, they will gradually open up and allow you to know more.
The best thing to do is to listen attentively, without thinking of solutions to offer as soon as they stop talking. It is then, that you can catch a glimpse of the burden they carry.
Let them know that you care
Let them know, that you care about what they are facing. Be acknowledging and considerate of their feelings. Tell them its okay to feel this way. Be there with them.
A warm hug can save a life!
If you do not have anything to say, you still have a chance a show them that you care. Hug them! Embrace them, Help them cry. You can never know what this loving gesture can mean to them. You never know the magnitude of the burden that will be lifted off by a warm hug.
Encourage professional help
If you think that the problem is severe and professional help is required, lead them to find one and let them know that it is completely okay to see a counsellor. Be with them through the Process.
After all, Depression is not a common cold. There’s no pill to cure it. It
needs much more to get a person out of it.
Listen, Love and Lead.