“Do you expect help, when you do not help others?”

What would you consider as helpful enough though? Lending a hand to someone who requires assistance in whatever form it may be, pointing someone in the right direction if they are lost, or simply being present for someone in need of comfort? No matter which form of help you offer, no form of help is insignificant.

And this brings me to the last but definitely not the end of the blog series on supporting someone battling depression. Just to recount what I shared in the last couple of weeks; Inform yourself about depression so you are better equipped to identify it when it rears its head, secondly we spoke of availing yourself to assist someone going through depression when the need be. After you have done all the above, but you still do not feel confident enough to assist the person, you could recommend the person to a trustee. Even after that do not leave them alone, offer to accompany them when they talk to this person. They may need a familiar presence to assure them they are not alone in this.

Never turn down an opportunity to help someone. You never know how far it may go to relieve the person of a problem and you also do not know when you will need theirs. Life becomes much easier when we work together and have people to count on. Be that shoulder, be that hand. Be the help someone needs.

Be that someone somebody talks to.

I know I can count on you in good times, what about bad times ??????

We are social beings and we thrive on interactions and connection with others, be it family, friends, colleagues or acquaintances. We cherish moments with others and as such wherever we find ourselves, we strive to establish connections with others, either momentarily or long-term. We love it when we have people to share experiences and make memories with.

But how do we feel, when our desires to love and be loved, to accept and to be accepted are not fulfilled? And what about when a connection we had with someone is severed, such that it no longer is what it used to be? How about when you are going through a difficulty and there is no one you could count on, especially if you would have wanted someone in your close circle? It hurts to be disappointed, but it hurts more when your friends are not reliable enough to help you out of a difficulty.

It is easy to look to others for solace and comfort, but maybe, it is about time we ask ourselves if we are ever at any point in time, able to offer comfort to someone going through a difficulty, or better still someone battling depression (since it is the focus of this blog). It is very easy to lose your cool with a depressed person, the feeling that they are being insensitive and would want your undivided attention and care. It is not easy to live with a depressed person. They have special needs and they can only pull through and out of their condition with the right assistance.

In last week’s episode, I mentioned how you could help a depressed person (Click this link if you missed last week’s post Help me, but inform yourself first of my condition). And now that you know how to identify warning signs of depression, the next big thing you could do is to Talk with the person you are concerned about.

But then, it is not just about talking, it is about “listening without being judgmental”. This isn’t the time to play the “I think you are right/ wrong card”. Because you know what, knowing does a better job of devaluing themselves than a depressed person. They have already condemned themselves and you wouldn’t want to compound that feeling. Remember, it is not about you and it will never be about you. It is about a friend you are concerned about and want to help. Besides, you wouldn’t want to give the impression that what they are going through is a fault of theirs.  Instead, what they need from you is love, care and support. You may not be available 24/7 for them, but to a depressed person, it would mean so much more than companionship, to know there is someone looking out for them and someone to count on. After all, we believe recovery is assured when we have a support system and work collectively.

Together, we can heal. Be the help someone needs.

Help me, but inform yourself first of my condition

Depression is real and the stigma associated with it is more real. The increasing rate of depression and its associated risks raise a cause for concern and underscore the need for us to openly discuss it. Luckily the more we know about it, the better suited we are to take care of ourselves or help someone who requires help.

Living with someone with depression can be very difficult. On the surface, we have no idea what the person is going through and we may feel the need to ignore the person because they may be trying to court our attention. Or better still, they are being too soft. After all, we all have issues of our own to deal with. Sometimes, we may want to help, but we are faced with the challenge of not knowing what to say to the person or how to help.

Are you concerned about your current state of mental health or you know someone with depression and wondering how you could help? You could first and foremost

Inform yourself about depression.

Imagine you go to the hospital to see a doctor about an ailment you have and the doctor is unable to help because they have never been faced with the condition you are presenting, and he never saw the need to learn about the condition. How would you feel about the competency of the doctor? Will you recommend their establishment to another person? You will obviously be wondering how helpful they would be to a patient considering their ignorance of the ailment or what treatment options are available.

This scenario can be applied to the relationship between your knowledge of depression and its subsequent effect on your health and that of others. Knowing what depression is and what it isn’t will help you differentiate between a feeling of blues and a debilitating condition. It will also be essential as it would enable you to decide when to seek assistance or when to take life easy. The key to recovery partly lies in your knowledge of depression.

Be informed, save a life.

 

The paradox of depression

Life is filled with sorrows. No matter what we do, we will in the end die. We are, each of us, held in the solitude of an autonomous body. Time passes and what has been will never be again.

Depression is a birth and a death: it is the new presence of something and the total disappearance of something. Birth and death are gradual, but the birth and death constituting depression occur at once. When depression strikes, the first thing that goes away is happiness. You cannot gain pleasure from anything and soon other emotions follow. You lose the ability to trust anyone, to be touched, to grieve. eventually, you are simply absent from yourself.

Rebuilding of the self in and after depression requires love, insight, work, and, most of all, time. Depression exists as a personal and a social phenomenon, and to treat it, one must understand the experience of a breakdown, how medications work, and the most common forms of talking therapy.

 

Excerpt from “The Noonday Demon”- Andrew Solomon

Poverty, the foe that plunges us into depression

Last week, I published a  post on how depression cuts across all social classes and the fact that no one, whether rich or poor is free from depression. After a couple of shares and discussion on the topic, I received a feedback on the matter that poverty is the issue in Ghana and not depression. The comment may have been meant as a joke but I still decided to focus my next article on the relationship between poverty and depression, and also to clear the myth that our only problem is poverty. Poverty is, in essence, the beginning of all our woes, ultimately the enemy pushing many of us into depression.

It is a well-established fact the relationship between poverty and depression; with socioeconomic factors like owning properties, the stability of one’s income, ability to secure basic necessities and the ability to keep a job playing a major role. The presumed stresses of the rapid development of our towns into cities and changes in our culture have also produced negative effects on both the physical and mental health of the average Ghanaian. Unfortunately, the mental health concerns—although an important part of daily life and the well-being of human beings —have been overtaken by other health problems, of most concern infectious diseases.

In the past, researchers claimed depression wasn’t present among Ghanaians but in those times there were more complaints of anxiety and tension, feelings of guilt and self-reproach. Physical symptoms such as irregular heartbeats, burning sensations and difficulty falling asleep were also common. However, these symptoms were not considered to be signs of depression because our knowledge and understanding of depression were limited. In a recent study by the Kintampo Health Research Institute, depression was identified as the leading mental health problem in Ghana contrary to the belief that madness is.

Depression is a relevant mental health concern and should not be neglected. It affects the quality of our life (e.g., low marital quality, low work performance, low earnings), increases our risk of a wide range of chronic physical disorders, and contributes to early mortality due to suicide.

 

Further reading
1. U M Read and V CK Doku, (2012), Mental Health Research in Ghana: A Literature Review. Ghana Med J., 46(2 Suppl): 29–38.
2. Heather SipsmaEmail author, Angela Ofori-Atta, Maureen Canavan, Isaac Osei-Akoto, Christopher Udry and Elizabeth H Bradley, (2013), Poor mental health in Ghana: who is at risk? BMC Public Health, 13:288

 

Irrespective of your social class, you are not spared of the rigors of depression

I have heard a number of critics say depression is an ailment of western developed countries and third world countries should not concern themselves with it. After all, they are faced with other pressing issues. I believe this assertion is false, and this perception stems from the fact that there are more research and discussion on the topic, and as a result, there are more treatment options available in developed countries. This only implies that you have more people reporting to facilities for diagnosis and treatment, which advertently increase the number of cases statistically.

Something can also be learnt from the cultural determinants of disease complaints. For most Africans, particularly, Ghanaians, clinical depression simply doesn’t exist within our realm of possibilities. We are supposed to be strong, cheery people. And our culture favours certain patterns of illness such as malaria, fevers, food poisoning, body pains, and others rather than attributing depression to be the basis of our “not-feeling-good”. Plus anything else we can’t explain is attributed to witchcraft or bad lifestyle choices. And in most instances, these generalized conclusions mask the depression leading to its misdiagnosis.

“Depression is the result of a genetic vulnerability, which is presumably evenly distributed in the population and triggering circumstances, which are likely to be more severe for people who are impoverished. And yet it turns out that poor people are mostly not being treated for depression.” –Andrew Solomon

Whether rich or poor, no one is spared of the challenges of life. The difference may be how we respond to these life events as and when they occur. Depression cuts across class boundaries, but its treatment doesn’t and this variation may make recovery difficult for a poor person who cannot afford treatment.

Is depression a flaw in love?

As creatures of love, we inherently long to love and be loved. To be loved by that special someone and reciprocating with your undivided attention, or affection for a special cause forms a pillar in our life and can make our existence meaningful.

This longing if not satisfied can be a source of weariness that has the potential to affect the quality of our life. And unfortunately, unrequited love doesn’t die, it’s only beaten down to a secret place where it hides, curled and wounded. Federico Garcia Lorca rightly put it this way, “to burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves”.

In his book, the noonday demon, Andrew Solomon writes, “Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair.” Isn’t it amazing how everything becomes easy and tolerable when it is something we love to do and how we overlook the imperfections of someone we love? Sigmund Freud, the father of the psychoanalytic theory of depression, in explaining the cause of depression described it as an unconscious conflict between human instincts and the human conscious. And in other to avoid such potentially damaging conflicts, there is the need to develop defence mechanisms.

Although love may not be protective against depression, it cushions the mind and protects it from itself. This love may be directed to self, work, God or anything of interest. These passions can furnish the vital sense of purpose which is the opposite of depression.

 

Identify your object or being of love and when you do, let us know how your relationship developed and progressed. Others will be interested to know how you did it. Send us an email at tok2someone@gmail.com.

Seek help, Find help