Sadness is a part of life as much as happiness is, and each and every one of us has our own way of coping with it. Going through a breakup/divorce, losing a loved one, and many other difficult situations might leave you scared, alone and sad. It’s normal to have those feelings because it just means that you're human.
But if those emotions overwhelm you, make you feel worthless, hopeless and helpless, that last for days, weeks or months, it could be something different than just sadness. This is commonly known as Clinical Depression.
What is Clinical Depression?
You always feel moody or guilty all the day, restless or slowed down, tired or lack of energy, you often think about death or suicide (not the fear of it), you can't sleep or you sleep too much, you lose/gain weight, and you find it hard to focus, make decisions, and you do not have any interest in any daily activity.
According to DSM-5, shortened for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the manual doctors use to diagnose mental disorders, if you have have five or more of the above symptoms, for more than two weeks, it is better to get examined by a doctor, preferably a psychiatrist.
Anxiety is quite different from depression, but people with depression often experience anxiety. Having problems concentrating, sleeping, feeling nervous, and irritable all the time are some of the symptoms that can be experienced by a depressed person, which are also the signs of anxiety disorder.
Treatment for Depression and Anxiety
Fortunately, both depression and anxiety are treatable medical conditions. The following are some of the widely recognized medical treatments for depression and anxiety.
Medication treatment for depression and anxiety is effective and can even be used in conjunction with therapy. Trying Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or non-medication based methods are good, but sometimes if depression/anxiety or other disorders are quite severe – medication is necessary to bring the patient to a stable state where therapeutic interventions can then begin.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
CBT addresses problems by focusing on dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and thoughts. Mental health disorders are often maintained by negative thoughts and emotions which are identified, challenged and changed in order to focus on solutions.
CBT is very interactive and engages the patient in finding solutions and can also include homework assignments. A therapist will provide a structured treatment plan and guide the patient through it.
Counseling allows patients to discuss their problems in order to increase self-awareness and address the issues with clarity and understanding. The patient will explore their feelings and thoughts to uncover the underlying ways of thinking or causes and find methods of coping or creating plans to overcome the issue at hand. Part of the talking therapies – the counselor will not tell you what to do but will create a safe environment for the patient.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
This method was originally developed as a relapse prevention technique but now used quite widely. It combined mindfulness-based meditation with cognitive behavioral therapy.
The mindfulness helps the patients identify and accept their thoughts and emotions without attaching or reacting to them. The CBT educates the patient about their illness and increases coping skills.
Through Narrative Therapy, the patient is viewed as the expert in their own lives. It is a non-blaming respectful approach to counseling (not that other approaches are blaming or disrespectful) but the problem is viewed as being separate from the individual.
The therapist helps the patient identify their knowledge, skills, and values so that they can use them to effectively confront the problems and issues at hand.
Image Source: Psychologists Frankston Group
In Group Therapy, the therapist works with a small group of people at the same time. It helps patients see that they are not alone and there are others who are going through similar problems.
Group members are often at different stages of treatment and this can help others who are beginning the process. Talking and listening to others helps put things into perspective and the therapist will guide the group through tackling their problems, identifying strategies and making positive changes to their lives.
Where to get help for depression?
There are a number of psychologists and counselors in Sri Lanka, as well as psychiatrists and organizations who can help you/anyone who is suffering from depression and anxiety.
- Nivendra Uduman
- Amalka Edirisinghe
- Lakmal Ponnaperuma
- Anthe Icxs
- Roshan Dhammapala
- Rekha Aththidiye
- Tirupathy Suveendran
- Chaminga Dhanapala
- Chandrika Ismail
- Shanez Fernando
- Nishali Fernandopulle
- Achini Ranasinghe
- Rushma Mohammed
- Gameela Samarasinghe
- Piyanjali de Zoysa
- Nathalie Panabokke
- Neil Fernando
- M. Ganeshan
- Shehan Williams
- Damani De Silva jayasinge
- Manoja Kulatunga
- Ravin Hanwella
- Varuni De Silva
- Sudarshi Seneviratne
So, why is depression awareness important?
Age Standardised Suicide Rate for Sri Lanka – 1975-2012
Because, the end result of untreated clinical depression is suicide, and it is a global phenomenon. According to the World Health Organization's (WHO) estimations, close to 800,000 people die of suicide each year, which is one person every 40 seconds. As of 2015, it is the 17th cause of death, accounted for 1.4% of all deaths worldwide.
Sri Lanka is at 22nd in global rankings for suicides, and it can be you, or someone you love.
Therefore, be kind to the person sitting next to you on the bus, help out a stranger, pay more attention to your friends, develop strong bonds with your siblings and parents. Depression and anxiety do not discriminate, it can happen to anybody.