19 January, 2019 - 08:00 (Research Matters)
I can’t swim. Imagine that you can’t either. Also, imagine that you fall into this big body of water. You are drowning. The water is slowly filling into your lungs. They say it can take from minutes to hours. But, who are ‘they’? ‘They’, who you can see and hear and are on the banks of that big body of water. ‘They’ are standing on the hard surface, while you are trying to grab onto something, or find a footrest somewhere. However, you can’t because you’re drowning, and you don’t want to. Perhaps, ‘they’ also don’t want you to die. Hence, you hear them shout— “Can somebody help!”, “Somebody throw in a tube and save her!” And then, the voices start to fade out.
Although disturbing, this is how it feels when a ‘stable’ ones advise those sunk deep into depression. While the loved ones want to help, they often can’t because they are standing on the firm ground. The one who is depressed also can’t help themselves since they are drowning and do not know to swim out of their state.
Depression, a feeling of severe despondency and dejection, is today more common than ever and is an unrecognised public health concern in the society. Major depressive disorders, including persistent feelings of sadness and worthlessness, cost more lives than any other psychiatric disorder.According to current research, it has spread it’s ugly tentacles across all walks of life, with academia leading the list.
What causes depression? Well, the exact causes are still being debated and are clouded as the stressors or triggers are myriad, ranging from work pressure, stressful relationship with boss/supervisor or peers to personal relationships, illness, loss, abuse or even genetic reasons. When a person cannot process information in relevance to daily life in a rational or logical order, it results in poor health behaviours, social challenges, misunderstandings and mood swings, ending up with depression. Correcting these cognitive problems helps those with depression, jump back to normalcy.
Depression often goes unnoticed, untreated or undertreated, due to various taboos that society associates with it—the most common one being labelling patients ‘mad’ or ‘crazy’. Help can be in the form of cognitive therapy, counselling, mindfulness training, self-help approaches or pills. Pursuing hobbies has proved to pull those depressed out of a sinking phase. Seeking professional help from psychologists or psychiatrists, although still stigmatised by the society, has proved to be effective in teaching depression patients ‘how to swim’ and prevent them from ‘drowning in the big body of water’. There is also a constant need for prophylactic psychological measures like healthy living, a better understanding of peers and meditation, which could help those healing prevent relapse.
As a society, we have a significant role in bringing back smiles to those who feel 'drowned'. As Stephen Hawking said, “Keep talking” to them to help them lighten their burden instead of judging and criticising. Small gestures like a phone call, dropping a message, or sending a card sometimes goes a long way. Since every individual is different and has their coping mechanisms, these simple steps surely help prevent someone from 'drowning' and save a life!