According to Statistics Canada’s 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) on Mental Health, 1.87million individuals of the Canadian population aged 15 years and over reported symptoms that met the criteria for a mood disorder in the previous 12 months, including 1.6 million individuals for major depression and 520,000 for bipolar disorder.
Further, almost one in 8 adults (4.3million) identified symptoms that met the criteria for a mood disorder at some point during their lifetime, including 3.9 million for depression. (Public health Canada, What is depression, 2014)
Most of us have family or friends quietly suffering from depression or know of someone who has gone through it. The headlines marked “Another Indian youth committed suicide” have unfortunately become more commonplace within the past decade. It is overwhelming how many people do not fully understand what depression really looks like, nor realize that there is a course of treatment for it. Mental health concerns within the Indian community have been greatly stigmatized, or seen as taboo. Most importantly, we are not able to recognize the extent of the consequences we must face when maintenance of mental health is ignored: although depression starts out as a thought, it continues to spreadif untreated until it consumes an individual and can lead to self-inflicted injuries in the physical form. Mental health is too often ignored or not discussed or even acknowledged until it’s too late.
This article is meant to raise awareness about depression and what we can do as a community to understand depression:what it means, what it looks like, and how to stop it from progressing before it consumes a loved one.
What is depression? In the simplest terms, there is an imbalance of neurotransmitters (chemicals) within the mind. In even more simple terms, think of it as lacking an essential ingredient to bake a cake.
How canyou spot depression or the signs of someone slipping into it? Just like having high blood pressure or diabetes there is usually signs and symptoms. Individuals with depression typically experience a pattern of signs and symptoms:
- Changes in sleep patterns (either excessive or almost no sleep).
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of concentration
- Anhedonia (Lack of interest in previously pleasurable activities)
- Loss of energy
- Feelings of guilt
- Thoughts of suicide
- Change in mood
If someone is exhibiting 5 out of 8 symptoms including depressed mood or anhedonia lasting greater than 2 weeks, they are likely experiencing depression. The majority of people with depressionare hesitant to express their feelings and may even avoid talking about them altogether. The Indian community largely sees mental health conditions as a sign of weakness somehow bringing disgrace to the family name. To avoid this, the family signores the true underlying reasons of grief and depression to avoid embarrassment.
The individual with depression feels helpless and hopeless; there is no joy where it once wasand instead this person is left feeling isolated.Additionally, they feel they are left to face this battle alone because the family would rather ignore the signs or deny the fact that their child, spouse, or sibling could experience this. This canlead to a tragic outcome if treatment from a professional is not sought.
We don’t consider depression worth our attention until we are faced with a catastrophic event. It is not until a suicide attempt within our circle of family or friends occurs that we start to recognize how serious depression really is.Although the magnitude of the depression is not realized until later, suicide is an avoidable outcome if the signs of depression are recognized and treated.
Depression functions as a progression of lonely feelings and proceeds to more tragic ones, such as desire for all of it to end, which ultimately leads to suicide. Treatment can be effectively administered at any stage of depression, whether a person is at the beginning stages or is having thoughts that lead to more tragic consequences.
The best course of action once signs of depression are recognized is to not shun an individual with depression, but to proceed to help the individual by seeking the necessary help. Acknowledging the individual’s feelings and playing a role in creating awareness in a nonjudgmental manner is crucial in order to move past these potentially self destructive feelings. If this individual feels that someone else understands them, this provides a safe space for someone to seek treatment and not have further feelings of guilt or loneliness; rather, they have a strong support system behind them on the road to recovery.
Upon seeking treatment, your doctor further explains how depression is a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain.Your physician will likely recommend treatmentthrough medication for a period of time. Depression is by no means permanent condition or a life long sentence of deep sadness.
It is important to recognize that,one can truly overcome the feelings associated with depression if it is managed through a combination of medication and therapy along with the support of family and friends. Do your part in supporting someone you think may be suffering from depression. As a community, we should value each and every life. Saving even one person from suicidal thoughts and fighting the urge to be concerned about what others may say goes a long way in contributing to a community who should support the strong mental health of individuals.
If you know someone with depression or suspect that a loved one may be experiencing this, please call the Suicide Prevention Crisis line at (403) 266 HELP (4357)
-Amar S Chetha, MD
– Gulwant S Gill, MD
– Suzwant S Gill, MD