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Published: Thursday November 6, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday November 6, 2014 MYT 9:44:22 AM

Depression, a serious medical disorder that's under-recognised, under-treated

Helpless: Depression affects how a person feels, thinks and behaves and can lead to emotional and physical problems.

Helpless: Depression affects how a person feels, thinks and behaves and can lead to emotional and physical problems.

Help the depressed to work through their loneliness and disconnect by raising awareness of depressive disorders.

As a columnist who writes about people with disabilities, one of the toughest challenges I encounter is writing about persons with mental illness and the struggles they face every day.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) projects that depression would become “the single greatest burden of disease in the world by 2030”.

WHO stresses that the way forward is to arm ourselves with key facts and figures on mental health. We need to raise awareness of people with mental illness, and sharing their stories and struggles will go a long way in fighting the stigma associated with the condition.

The issue of depression strikes close to home for me because it affected two of my dearest friends.

During my teenage years, my best friend JD was the epitome of a happy-go-lucky person. He was kind and intelligent, and would always look out for me in my wheelchair. But JD had a dark secret known only to his family and close friends; it was a monster called “depression”.

During his lowest moments, JD told me that even though I couldn’t walk, I was the “really lucky one” compared to him.

“Even though you have no control over your legs, at least you have control of your mind,” he pointed out as he tried to battle depression as best as he could with positive thoughts and medication. But as time went by, JD’s resolve grew weaker and he stopped taking his medication.

One day JD called me. He sounded happy. He told me not to worry about him anymore and that “everything would be all right.” The next morning, I received a call from his family informing me that JD had committed suicide.

Years later, another friend, PT, also went through the same symptoms of depression as JD. She also took her own life. She was one of the kindest and most understanding persons I have ever met. However, loneliness brought on by depression was just too much for her to bear.

Recently I contacted Dr Deva Dass, a consultant psychiatrist, to get an understanding of what goes on in the minds and hearts of those who are depressed.

“Depression is one of the most serious medical disorders in public health, and despite the magnitude of the problem, it is significantly under-recognised and under-treated,” says Dr Deva Dass in an e-mail.

He points out that the term “depression” does not best describe the disorder, as it implies sadness and grief which can be a normal everyday reaction. “Depressive disorder” is a more accurate term as it manifests itself in every aspect of the human condition – mental, physical, behavioural and spiritual.”

According to Dr Deva Dass, for disorders of the body, identification and analysis can be confirmed by numerous analytical gadgets. For depression, there is no cerebroscope to identify the thoughts or the workings of the spirit or soul.

“People with depression seek absolute peace of mind, but our human world can only offer pieces, fragments of fleeting peace; a little sunshine that breaks through the never-ending passing clouds of life. Medical science, including psychiatry, is totally out of touch with spiritual science. Some medical professionals find it hard to understand that people with depressive disorder cannot be trivialised as case studies. Although they may have similar underlying traits, the way the disorder affects each one is different,” explains Dr Deva Dass.

“Loneliness is a painful aspect of a depressive disorder, causing a detachment from the rest of humanity. The ability to quieten and still the mind is an ongoing battle. A sense of hope and optimism, and faith in ourselves and others will make peace a reality.”

By highlighting the disorder and raising awareness through events such as the Depressed Cake Shop, we can help the depressed to work through their loneliness and disconnect, adds Dr Deva Dass.

Tags / Keywords: anthony thanasayan

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