By Kenneth Uyi Ogbebor
The recent spate of suicide related deaths has now seen the spotlight beamed, perhaps like never before on the silent killer known as depression.
The most recent of these cases that grabbed the headlines was quite poignant. Hikmat Gbadamosi, a 100 level student of University of Port Harcourt, took her own life after a prolonged battle with depression. Her bloated corpse was discovered days after by some of her friends.
She had consumed Sniper. Described as extremely social and convivial, she was the assistant course representative for her programme in school until the time of her demise. The statistics make for grime reading. Nigeria currently ranks 15th in the world for suicides, according to the World Health Organization and with 7 million diagnosed with depression, Nigeria is by far Africa’s most depressed country.
Add to that, rising unemployment figures and a drug pandemic and it would take an obscene level of optimism not to think that the country is on the precipice.
Among the more popular cases of people who have taken their lives out of depression are hugely successful people from all walks of life who supposedly have the world at their feet.
Depression is a deadly and silent killer. That someone perceived to be happy and full of life could be so broken to the point of taking his or her own life further illustrates why the menace called depression shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The role of the family
Depression is a serious but treatable disorder. Support and care from loved ones can go a long way in one’s recovery. Family and friends are often the first line of defense in the fight against depression. That’s why it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms of depression. You may notice the problem in a depressed loved one before they do, and your influence and concern can motivate them to seek help.
Family members should flag signs such as frequent complaints about anxiety, a lack of motivation, a loss of interest in social or pleasurable activities especially in areas where they have always shown interest.
The family needs to act every bit as a family in the true sense of the word. In one 2016 study of a large group of teenagers from diverse ethnic backgrounds, results showed that teens with high levels of parental support had lower depression symptoms and lower cortisol and C-reactive protein levels – two psychological markers associated with depression – than teens with less supportive relationships.
One of the best ways of supporting a family member battling depression is by listening. Depression is very often an isolating, painful and bewildering experience. Often, people will withdraw even from those closest to them due to shame, fear of being a burden, or because they have lost their impulse to socialize and by simply providing a listening ear, you make a depressed patient feel less lonely or isolated.
While you cannot control someone else’s recovery from depression, you can start by encouraging the depressed person to seek help. Getting a depressed person into treatment can be difficult.
Depression saps energy and motivation, so even the act of making an appointment or finding a doctor can seem daunting to your loved one. Depression also involves negative ways of thinking. The depressed person may believe that the situation is hopeless and treatment pointless.
Because of these obstacles, getting your loved one to admit to the problem—and helping them see that it can be solved—is an essential step in depression recovery. A regular doctor’s visit is actually a great option, since the doctor can rule out medical causes of depression.
If the doctor diagnoses depression, they can refer your loved one to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Sometimes, this “professional” opinion makes all the difference.