Sheela was so cheerful last term, always out playing basketball during breaks. She has changed so much! Now she sits alone in class and doesn’t talk to anyone; she doesn’t eat her lunch and is often in the sick room, claiming she has headaches as she does not sleep properly. She failed in four subjects and her mother was angry and upset about the report card, complaining to the teacher about how money was being wasted sending her for tuition. Sheela cried and said she didn’t want to study any more. She told a friend there was no hope in future for her. Sheela also told the teacher that her parents were constantly fighting and that was troubling her a lot.
The situation described above shows how feelings of despair and sadness develop. This is termed depression. We hear and read a lot about depression today as a common mental health problem, and it is important to know how it occurs. As students or young adults, many of us have highs and lows (especially with exams around the corner and at other difficult times). Often, persons with depression and other mental health issues do not seek help due to the shame of admitting it and the stigma of seeing a mental health expert.
What Are Some Of The Common Signs Of Depression That We Need To Look Out For?
- Getting easily irritated, leading to fights with classmates and family
- Having difficulty focusing/concentrating on our studies
- Not feeling like eating
- Disturbed sleep and constant tiredness (lack of energy)
- Aches and pains (head, body)
- ‘What is the point of living?’ is a question that keeps coming to mind
- Drop in quality of studies/work; deteriorating relationships with those around us
- Using alcohol/tobacco and other drugs to cope with our feelings
- Risk of self-harm
We can help those around us or ourselves when we identify the above signs that can persist. Constant worrying about problems at home or outside, How do I cope with final exams? How will I do at my job interview? Can I meet deadlines?, can bother us.
HOW CAN I HELP?
Talking to someone about feeling low is helpful and a person close to you can gently and sensitively find out what the issue is (identify). The person may not be ready to talk, in which case the supporter can make themselves available whenever the person is willing to do so. Talking to a close family member/ friend helps vent pent-up feelings.
In some instances, the person can be introduced to a counsellor or expert if there is no change or improvement despite all efforts. Often there is a situation that triggers a person’s sad feelings and this ‘stressor’ can cause many to struggle to cope. Remember, experiencing stress is normal and can often motivate a person to achieve goals. There are healthy and unhealthy ways of coping and stress can get overwhelming when coping fails.
Problem solving methods, relaxation and healthy coping are some ways of tackling depression. Besides counselling, when necessary anti-depressant medication is prescribed by a specialist for some time, usually to be tapered off when improvement occurs.