Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Reality of Depression: 10 Facts You Need To Know

Artwork: Ajgiel

World Mental Health Day took place last Monday October 10th as a day for "global education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma" and what an incredibly beneficial and much needed service this campaign is in our modern day climate. In writing this post the aim is to shine a light on the reality of depression. Read on to discover the truth about this debilitating illness and how you can recognise the signs and symptoms in time.

1. Clinical depression is a very real illness

 Depression is an invisible illness, however the impact it has on the person suffering and their families certainly is not, it is overwhelmingly real . Depression is a condition of the mind, just in the same manner that eczema is a condition of the skin or asthma is a condition of the lungs. Why should one condition deserve less respect and recognition than another?  

2. Depression is not a choice 

You often see quotes floating around  like "choose happiness" or "every day you wake up you have a choice to be happy, take it"  unfortunately, putting this theory into practice is not quite so simple for the 1 in 10 battling with depression today (statistic: Aware). One does not simply choose to be unhappy, unmotivated or lacking the energy required to get through a normal day, these symptoms are a very difficult part of an illness, a very real and crippling illness.

3. Depression does not discriminate 

This illness is certainly not restricted to a certain type of person from a certain type of background or social class. Depression can affect absolutely ANYONE and has nothing to do with money, material possessions or a lack of the above. The death of Robin Williams is a clear example that it does not matter who you are, how famous you are or how much you own, depression can take a devastating grip on your life and needs to be addressed as early as possible. Other well known people who have spoken openly about their battle with depression include Wentworth Miller, Niall Breslin, Selena Gomez and J.K. Rowling. It is often people who seem to have a lot going for them that face this cruel challenge, however, we must remember that depression is a black dog that can visit anyone at any time. 

4. Depression can have devastating effects and consequences

We can all relate to the feeling of having a bad day Aware call this feeling depression with a little "d" which we all get and luckily it passes after a while.  Depression with a big "D" , however can completely take over your life day in day out draining you of your energy and robbing your happiness like a thief in the night. It affects your concentration, your self-esteem and takes away your drive and motivation for the many passions and interests you once enjoyed and carried out to the best of your ability. You feel sad, anxious, on edge and constantly irritable, often for no apparent reason and you become more frustrated when you have no explanation for why you are feeling this way. Leaving depression untreated can be fatal as the alarmingly high Irish suicide rate tragically proves. How many more lives have to be taken before our government steps up to try and tackle this issue?

5. The symptoms are more than just psychological

The misconception that depression only affects your mood is a myth that has now been disproved by various research studies. Depression also causes physical symptoms such as an overwhelming tiredness that never lifts regardless of how long you sleep for, extreme aches, pains and muscle tension, weight loss or gain. Depression can affect your career and your ability to carry out even the easiest everyday tasks due to the overwhelming lack of energy you must try battle through every day. Often people will seek medical help for the physical symptoms showing how it can be very easy to mistake the symptoms of depression for other ailments.

6. There are many different causes of depression

The condition is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, a lack of serotonin which is responsible for maintaining mood balance and contributes to our overall well-being and happiness.  Depression can run in families and you may inherit genes that make you more susceptible to having the condition. Depression can stem from a build up of extreme stress over a period of time from for example working too hard and serious life changes such as death, sickness, losing a job or a relationship breakdown.

7. You can never just "snap out of it"

It is very insulting and unfair to ask a depressed person to just "cheer up", "get over it" or "cop on". Would we ask a person in a wheelchair to get up and walk? Would we tell someone battling cancer to just get over themselves? We need to be cognisant of the language we use when we interact with someone facing this illness. It can be difficult to support someone if you do not understand what they are going through, so the best thing you can do is to educate yourself so you are fully informed.

8.  Depression is a great teacher

Although the illness is extremely challenging, has no cure and is a lifetime battle faced by thousands on a day to day basis there is a positive side to it. After years of formal education, you will never receive a better life education than when you are faced with a bout of depression. You will discover that there are many cruel people out there hoping to see you go down and you will finally understand the power of having genuine people around you for support. Overcoming a spell of depression will completely transform your life and change you as a person. You find an inner strength that you never could have imagined years before. If you can get through the physical and emotional torment of depression, very few things in life will have the power to hurt you again.

9. The person that appears happy is often struggling 

People suffering from depression are often the most intelligent beings you will come across in your life and they can be very good at putting on a false facade to the world by pretending everything's fine and displaying a cheery exterior. They are often considered the life and soul of the party, great craic and fun to be around but usually this is completely false or just an attempt to distract themselves from the reality they face inside. Be wary of the false smile or put on laugh because it is often a mask and a huge warning sign to watch out for.

10. People just want respect for their condition

Those suffering from depression are not looking for pity, they simply want respect. Education is the only way forward and the only way for society to be fully informed and for the stigma to be finally broken for good. It is amazing to see public figures such as Niall Breslin and Wentworth Miller using their positions to shine a light on this huge issue. Remember, it is 100% ok not to feel ok and please look for help if you are feeling this way!

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