World Health Day: 5 common myths about depression that need to go.

07-04-2017
HT

Depression is a very common mental ailment globally and often also the most misunderstood and undiagnosed. According to recent statistics, approximately two-thirds of people who commit suicide suffer from depression, which had been left undiagnosed or untreated. The latest estimates from WHO reveal that over 300 million people across the world are now living with depression with an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015. There is an urgent need to educate people about the illness and bust the misconceptions about it.

Here are five common myths people have about depression:

Depression is just sadness

While one of the first and main characteristics of depression is the sense of doom and extreme sadness, it is not synonymous with it. Often, sadness is a passing emotion due to a sudden loss or an upsetting occurrence while depression is a chronic mental ailment. A person under depression can show and feel many other negative emotions other than just sadness like anxiety, gloom, apathy and a sense of emptiness.

There has to be a personal reason behind the onset of depression

Depression is a mental ailment which may or may not be connected with a personal loss or traumatic event. Many a time, depression might occur due to excessive stress, some underlying medical condition, or as a side effect of a prescribed medication. It is not like an allergy which gets triggered. It is a mental condition which grows in severity and needs immediate medical and therapeutic supervision.

A person suffering from depression is mentally challenged and can’t lead a normal life

This perception is completely untrue and a major reason why depressed people do not seek medical help for the fear of being stigmatised. Depression is a mental condition and doesn’t mean that the person is “mad”. Those suffering from it can lead a normal life with a certain level of support from their family and friends. Therapy and psychiatric counselling can help in identifying their issues and ways to tackle them. Unlike a mentally challenged person, a depressed person can lead a completely normal and independent life with some minor medical assistance.

Cheer up. It’s all in the mind

Most of the times, a person suffering from depression is blamed for being overly sensitive and exaggerating things. What one fails to see is that depressed people can’t control how they feel. It is very important to be supportive and empathetic rather than say insensitive things like, ‘Snap out of it!’ or ‘Cheer up!’. Blaming the patient can worsen the issue and might trigger suicidal thoughts. One has to remember: Why would one choose to cry or have an emotional outbreak in a public place?

Depressed people are seeking attention

A person suffering from depression doesn’t really want public attention. They just want to be left alone and be isolated. You can often hear them wishing to disappear into thin air and just run away from everyone. So the next time a person with depression has an outburst, remember not to say that they are doing it to seek attention.

A person suffering from depression requires a lot of support and understanding from family and friends. It is difficult to understand such suffering as it is not physical. However, this makes it all the more important to be empathetic and supportive towards those who are living with it.

The writer is a doctor and the head of quantitative health at Grow Fit.

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