Emily, a 37-year-old female, finally attempted suicide today. She took 30 tablets of her mother’s baby aspirin. Emily’s mother noticed that her strange behavior worsened 16 months ago when she got divorced. Her mood has been low with a feeling of emptiness and miserable. She no longer has interest in watching her favorite TV shows and is not motivated to do her usual chores and groom herself. Emily doctor has told her that she has depression.
WHAT IS DEPRESSION
Depression is an abnormal mood condition characterized by a wide range of ill feeling over a long period. These include persistent low mood, sad feeling, loss of interest on pleasures and lack of motivation. Is also common for a depressed person to feel worthless/hopeless/guilt and an irrational burst of anger/impatience. A depressed person usually complains of decreased energy, trouble focusing and coping, forgetfulness, weight loss/gain, lack/excessive sleep, strange pain and thought of harming/killing oneself. While depression occurs in children, it’s more common in adolescent-adult and diagnosis is primarily from history and physical examination. Interestingly, depression is very common in our society with about every one in ten adult Canadian having depression( Statistics Canada 2012).
CAUSES OF DEPRESSION
Depression is considered to result from a disturbance in body chemistry leading to imbalance in body chemicals. This imbalance could be genetic which is why depression runs in family. While the cause is unknown in some cases, unpleasant life event could cause /triggers depression. These include stressful life events, traumatic childhood conditions, poor social support, serious chronic pain/illness, alcohol and use of street drugs, some medications, long winter nights with little sun exposure, etc.
Complete cure for depression is difficult, so the treatment goals are primarily to alleviate/resolve symptoms and improve functions and quality of life. While the resolution of symptoms is common, its reoccurrence is frequent as well(about 45—75%). It takes an average of 4 and 20 weeks to achieve significant symptom improvement and remission respectively.
There are effective treatments for depression. Medication and talk therapy (psychotherapy/counselling) are primary treatment. While both are effective when used separately, simultaneous treatment with both is more effective. The medications have variable side effects, some of which are intolerable. Many people end up attempting more than one medication before the one that is of both fewer side effects and effective is identified. An individual with mild symptoms may choose to only observe the symptoms while types resistant to above treatment may require electric treatment (electroconvulsive treatment). There are some herbal/natural preparations and supplements that have been reported to be helpful. However, some grey areas exist with the use of these medications, and it is recommended that you consult your doctor before using them.
Other important and effective treatment measures depressed individuals can take on their own are; setting goals and keeping it, keeping busy with gainful activities, exercise, healthy diet and sleep hygiene. Avoiding triggers including street drugs/medications/stressors, receiving social supports, doing something new and pleasurable, relaxation technique, acupuncture, reading around depression, joining support groups, taking medication accordingly and ensuring follow up with care providers are effective treatment.
It is very important and strongly recommended that you call 991 and/or visit the nearest Emergency Room if you start having thoughts to harm/kill yourself.