Coping with depression

Depression is a state of despondency or dejection. Sickness, a major accident, death of a loved one, financial crisis, all these kind of situations can lead one to depression. Mostly this is short lived. But some continue to suffer from depression with no known valid reason. Such people become difficult to handle. As ‘World Mental Health Day’ is approaching (October 10), it is time for people to be more aware about depression.

Due to depression individuals become apathetic towards life, they stop talking, laughing, eating and sleeping. Exceptionally some may over sleep. In extreme cases, the person attempts suicide. Lack of interest in work makes them lose their jobs which creates financial problems thus adding on to the depression.

A person suffering from depression needs to be counseled. He or she has to be told that what has happened is over or will finish soon. They need to move ahead with life. Every individual has responsibilities and depression should not overshadow it.

They should not be criticised in any manner, otherwise they will not heed to the advice given. One has to be very patient and loving while counseling individuals suffering from depression.

It is very important to keep a person suffering from depression very busy, physically and mentally. It is said that, “an empty mind is devil’s workshop”. If they sit idle, their mind tends to wander repeatedly on the real or imaginary tragedies leading to depression.

They should be kept involved in some creative useful activity all time. Gardening, reading, making handicrafts, e.t.c., activities keep a person occupied and happy. Vocational rehabilitation of a depressed individual gives him a new chance to get on with life overcoming his grief and thus helps cure depression. Meditation and prayers also help to soothe a depressed mind state. Breathing exercises in yoga are very useful to help people relax mentally and cure depression.

Alcohol and other addictive substances are often abused by individuals suffering from depression. But they provide only temporary respite. Once their effect finishes off, a person may revert back. They have so many adverse effects on one’s physical health that a person using them is sure to suffer from many health related problems later, apart from the depression. Therefore these substances should be avoided.

Drug treatment for depression is available. Tranquilizers and sedatives simply suppress it but do not cure it totally. Thus on stopping the drugs there is a high risk of reversal. On long term use, a person invariably develops some side effects of these drugs. These side effects like stiffness of joints and body, abnormal postures of limbs and or face, habituation, become more troublesome. These anti depressant drugs have drug interactions with some other drugs like those used for pain, hypertension, diabetes, epilepsy, e.t.c. diseases. Somebody taking any one or more these drugs and also antidepressants should be careful , otherwise one of the medicines can be ineffective or toxic.

A person suffering from depression does not eat properly and gradually develops malnutrition making him more prone to develop other diseases. He should be motivated to take a nutritious diet. These people have to be watched closely so that they do not commit suicide.

Taking care of a depressed person is a very exhausting work for the care providers. This is truer for persons who have been victims of major accidents or severe violence as in wars, terrorist attacks or genocides and suffer from depression as a consequence. Care givers have to be very careful in their approach . Because, any loose comment can send him/her back to the depressed state. Therefore professional institutional care may be for short while is better for such cases than care provided at home. At times a person feels more comfortable with sympathetic strangers as compared to relatives.

True cure of a person suffering from depression would be when he starts behaving and working normally and looks happy.

Dr Rachna Pande,
Specialist, internal medicine