Imagine being lost at sea, trying to swim to shore but feeling like you are not moving.
You try desperately to wave your arms and legs but they are paralysed, leaving you stuck in the middle of the ocean, with massive waves hitting you. As you try to inhale some air and scream for help, your lungs are instantly filled with water.
Prof Eva Manyedi, who is a registered advanced psychiatric nurse and an expert in mental health issues and substance abuse at the NWU’s campus in Mahikeng, describes depression as the prolonged and severe feeling of sorrow, sadness, hopelessness and heavy-heartedness. A person feels empty and life does not seem worth living.
How to identify depression
Although depression is not a physical illness, there are a number of signs and symptoms that can indicate a loved one is depressed.
According to Eva, someone who is depressed usually feels discouraged and loses interest in daily activities and hobbies. The person can either lose their appetite or overeat, resulting in weight gain or weight loss.
She adds that these people have immense feelings of worthlessness and guilt, and tend to isolate themselves from others.
Throw a lifeline to a person in need
Once you suspect a loved one is suffering from depression, it is very important to seek professional help from a clinical psychologist who will offer counselling.
Should family members notice suicidal tendencies, they should refer the individual to a psychiatrist who can prescribe treatment and constant observation.
“Depressed people do not commit suicide when they are deeply depressed because they do not have the energy to do so. But as soon as they gradually come out of the depression, they could commit suicide because the cause of their depression might be clear in their minds,” Eva says.
To avoid slipping back into a depressive state, it is important to lead a healthy lifestyle, eat healthily and exercise regularly.
It is also critical to have a strong support structure of friends or family, where problems can be discussed openly. A routine of enjoyable activities needs to be established and alcohol and drugs need to be avoided because they tend to depress the mind.
With the right help and support, depression can be overcome.
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I had a black dog, and his name was depression. Source: World Health Organisation