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For a couple of weeks, most of my friends have been posting and commenting on issues on suicide or depression. I took time in studying most of their comments and I found out that many of them do not really understand the meaning of depression. Their concept of thinking reminds me of a friend I met four months ago. During the course of our discussion he said that Africans (Nigeria) do not suffer from depression. What! Are you kidding me? Of all the posts and comments that I have come across, none of them acknowledges that depression is a mental illness. Rather they are interested in saying suicide is not the solution, stay strong, Nigeria is hard and you are not the only one suffering, etc.

At this point, we need to ask a fundamental question. What is depression? According to the American Psychiatric Association “depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home”. The word in bracket reminds us that it is among the depressive disorders.

Depressive disorders according to Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DMS-V) “include mood dysregulation disorder, major depressive disorder (including major depressive disorder), persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), premenstrual dysphoric disorder, substance/medication-induced depressive disorder, depressive disorder due to another medical condition, other specified depressive disorder, and other unspecified depressive order”. This may sound a bit psychological but the bottom line is that one can recognise it because it has its characteristics signs and symptoms. Lest I forget, Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression. In addition, the American Psychiatric Association reiterates the fact that “medical conditions (e.g., thyroid problems, a brain tumor or vitamin deficiency) can mimic symptoms of depression so it is important to rule out general medical causes”.

Again, it is important to remember that depression is quite different from sadness. Diana Candea and her colleagues stated in their book titled REBT in the Treatment of Subclinical and Clinical Depression that “the difference between depression and sadness lies specifically in their healthy/unhealthy features: while depression is an unhealthy emotion, sadness is a healthy one. For example, sadness (we assess the situation realistically- they make fun of me right now), depression (we tend to overestimate the badness of the situation- they mock me as I am the last human being on earth). Sadness (we think this is an unwelcome situation- I’d wish they didn’t), depression (we think the situation is unacceptable/ and shouldn’t exist- they shouldn’t do this ever).

One important point is that depression can affect anyone-rich, poor, tall, small, African, Nigerian, etc. A lot of things can cause depression but since you are already tired of reading to this point I will limit it to four points. Environmental factors like abuse, the present Nigerian situation where there is little or no business/ a lot of people do not have jobs. Personality of the individual. Think of people with low self-esteem. The atmosphere in Nigeria does not help most of them to survive and many die in silence. Genetics. Something that exist in the family. Think about your medical doctor when he was asking you about a particular illness. Is this problem in your family? Lastly, Biochemistry, this branch of science can prove to us that that the certain chemicals in the brain can lead to depression.

Before I conclude, I want advise you the reader that you can help a friend who is depressed. How many times are you interested in posting or commenting on Facebook instead of thinking of how to be of help to your siblings, neighbours and friends? When was the last time we looked into the eyes of our beloved ones, friends and neighbours and asked them these questions; how are you? What can I do to help? Sometimes, when they reply us, we do not take their feelings seriously. It costs nothing to use some simple words like; tell me what I can do to help, I am here for you, I might not understand exactly how you feel right now, but I want to help you. Even though you may not understand the whole scenario but spending a minute with the individual is better than staying on social media and writing sentences like this; why can’t you see the positive? This is just a phase; it will pass.

Lastly, I will like to conclude with the words of Mathew Kelly, “the lesson I learned was that someone can look perfectly fine, but never know what is going on inside-and everyone has something going on inside. Be gentle with the people who cross your path. If someone is grumpy or rude, if someone makes or does something wrong, give her the benefit of the doubt. You never know what she or he is carrying around inside”. You never know if he or she is depressed. Remember, research has consistently shown a strong link between suicide and depression. You can be of help to someone. You never know.

Depression is treatable. Please do not take the individual to the church or centres for spiritual healing. Please, please, please look for a professional to help the individual in question.
Thank you for reading to this point.
Love you all

Benedict Ugwuanyi

Benedict C. Ugwuanyi

18th of May, 2019

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