HOW would you know if you are depressed or just feeling down?
Depression is a medical condition that negatively affects how a person thinks, feels, behaves and handles daily activities.
To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for almost every day for a minimum of two weeks and causes impairment in functionality, a mental health expert revealed during a webinar.
“It is important to realise that depression is not just about feeling sad, ” said consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist Dr Hazli Zakaria.
He said a depressed person would lose interest, have changes in sleeping and eating patterns, feel tired without doing much, not able to concentrate, make mistakes as well as have negative thoughts and feelings such as guilt, pain, hopelessness and helplessness.
“There are so many faces of depression.
“It is important for us to assess and work together (for patients’ better outcome and recovery).
“(Usually) they don’t want other people to know they are suffering from depression as (they feel) it carries certain negative perceptions.
“There are so many people who are depressed but try to hide (their feelings).
“How can we help them when they think it is an invasion of their privacy?
“Some don’t want to come forward and talk about it as they feel embarrassed, ” said Dr Hazli, who is also Malaysian Psychiatric Association president.
He was one of three speakers at a webinar entitled “Depression has a face: It looks just like you and me”, organised by Star Media Group with Janssen (pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson) as its education partner.
Dr Hazli, who is also a council member of Mental Health Promotion Advisory, said: “We need to remove the (affected) person from the toxic environment which caused him or her to be depressed.
“We also have to remind patients not to blame themselves or lose hope and to keep trying for a smooth recovery, ” he added.
Fellow speaker Prof Dr Alvin Ng Lai Oon, who is a professor of clinical psychology, said anyone could get depressed at any time.
“A person suffering from depression should approach professionals for treatment.
“You don’t have to wait until you have difficulty moving.
“Don’t wait until the situation gets worse, as it will take longer for you to get better, ” said Prof Ng, who was the founding president of Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology.
The recipient of the EduCoop National Outstanding Educator (Psychology) Award said there were several factors that contributed to a person having depression.
“Biological factors interact with psychosocial factors. So it’s not just about mental causes.
“Psychosocial factors include the way you think, the way you behave, how you manage emotions and your learning processes.
“All these are constantly interacting with biological factors and your social environment to bring about depression, ” he said.
Prof Ng encouraged individuals to maintain physical fitness, practise relaxation, have enough rest and take care of their nutrition — all of which contribute to better mental health.
Citing research, he said three things — a sense of belonging, relevance and ability — contributed to a person’s general well-being.
He also shared that engagement in meaningful activities and socialisation were very important treatment components, and that society played a vital role in the recovery of people living with depression.
A patient who was a guest speaker also shared his personal journey of living with depression.
“I was depressed for about two weeks. I was scared and stayed in bed and didn’t feel like eating. I was exhausted despite not doing anything.
“I disconnected from my job, family and friends, ” said the patient, adding that his mother, who was worried about his condition, brought him to see a doctor.
He took various steps during the recovery process.
“I joined an online support group during the movement control order period.
“If you are scared, you can choose to remain anonymous and be off camera.
“I think socialising is very important. I kept reading, attending online video talks about therapy and exploring new things that made me more comfortable.”
He was initially afraid of being judged by others when sharing about his condition.
With regard to medication, he said it made him “drowsy and sleepy”.
His advice for those who are depressed is to share with someone they trust and seek help for self-recovery.
He added that others could help the depressed by listening.
“Listen to the emotions of what that person is saying, even if he or she may look fine, ” he advised.