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World Health Day: Three myths about depression we should debunk

Today we commemorate World Health Day amid reports by the World Health Organisation indicating that depression is the number one cause of ill-health globally. The theme “Depression: let’s talk” recognizes that depression is a treatable condition and seeks to address the fact that, despite this, about 50% of cases of major depression still go untreated. As we commemorate World Health Day, let us all remember that we are all vulnerable to depression.

Depression is the second-leading cause of disability and also an important risk factor for suicide, which claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

WHO reports that depression is an illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks. In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Depression is not a real disease

Clinical depression is one of the most enervating diseases in the world. It can be a real handicap for patients in the sense that it interferes with daily life and normal functioning. It is treatable through talking therapies or antidepressant medication or a combination of these.

Only Women get depressed

The Harvard health publication reports that women are about twice as likely as men to develop major depression. They also have higher rates of seasonal affective disorder, depressive symptoms in bipolar disorder, and dysthymia (chronic depression). It is unclear why there is this gender gap, however some experts believe depression is equally suffered by men and women, only that women are more likely to be diagnosed with this disorder, in part because men are less likely to talk about feelings and seek help for mood problems.

Depression is a ‘White’ disease

According to a research by the more than 5 percent of the population suffers from depression are in the Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean. The South African College of Applied Psychology reports that one in six South Africans suffer from anxiety, depression or substance-use problems (and this does not include more serious conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia). Some experts have argued that the ‘Black anger’ phenomenon has clouded the visibility of depression in people of African descent. ‘Anger’ among Caucasians is easily seen as depression.

As we commemorate World Health Day, let us all remember that we are all vulnerable to depression. These tips from the WHO will help you or someone close to you, deal with depression.

  • Talk to someone you trust about your feelings. Most people feel better after talking to someone who cares about them.
  • Seek professional help. Your local health-care worker or doctor is a good place to start.
  • Remember that with the right help, you can get better.
  • Keep up with activities that you used to enjoy when you were well.
  • Stay connected. Keep in contact with family and friends.
  • Exercise regularly, even if it’s just a short walk.
  • Stick to regular eating and sleeping habits.
  • Accept that you might have depression and adjust your expectations. You may not be able to accomplish as much as you do usually.
  • Avoid or restrict alcohol intake and refrain from using illicit drugs; they can worsen depression.
  • If you feel suicidal, contact someone for help immediately.

Videos: WHO: Let’s talk about depression

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