For years, mental illness has been a topic that most would prefer to avoid. In South Africa alone there are 23 suicides a day. 70% of South Africa’s attempted suicides have been made by people suffering from a mental illness - whether it is depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. With these statistics in mind, it is irresponsible for communities to not have open and honest conversations about mental health and the rise of depression amongst today’s societies. Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses that affect our communities today, and it is not an issue that should be disregarded.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mental illness that has many misconceptions. We have been groomed to believe that being in a down mood or sad state classifies as being depressed and that depression is something people are able to shake off and move past. Unfortunately for numerous people diagnosed with depression, this is not the case. It is important that people understand the difference between feeling depressed and suffering from depression.

Clinical Depression is a classified medical illness and is treated by trained professionals. Clinical Depression is caused by a hormonal imbalance that is beyond the control of the patient and requires medication and psychological treatment in most cases.

Common Symptoms of Depression:

  • A loss of appetite and weight loss OR
  • Excessive binge eating and weight gain
  • An inability to focus and concentrate at school, work or on simple tasks
  • Continuous fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Over sleeping
  • Disinterest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Irritability and short temper
  •  Feelings of being worthless and insignificant
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • An inability to make small decisions

It is also important to monitor how often you feel these feelings and for how long these feelings and actions persist. A large part of diagnosing depression is noting that these feelings are persistent as opposed to fleeting.

Treating Depression:

If you feel that you or somebody close to you may be suffering from depression, it is vital that you speak to a doctor and seek medical attention. A licensed GP is qualified to diagnose and treat depression, but may refer you to other specialists such as a psychologist and psychiatrist. Treating depression can often be a long process that may have to be changed and altered along the way to ensure that your treatment is as effective as possible.

Alongside medical attention and medication, the treatment of depression cannot be successful without lifestyle changes. Patients who suffer with depression are usually heavily advised to stay away from drugs, alcohol and even caffeine. Alongside treatment, patients are often advised to pay close attention to the way they live their lives and how to make the best decisions possible. These decisions include being conscious about exercise, sleep and routine.