This week on NOC Advises, we are going to look at a problem that has been getting increasingly common among teenagers and even adults. Depression – a term that is known to all, and some might actually treat it as it’s just a phase that a person will grow out of naturally. But on the contrary, depression is a very serious mental condition that will require the intervention of an external party as the possible consequences of continued depression may lead to self-harm or even suicides.
Before we delve into the topic, let’s take a quick look on the statistics of Singapore in this regard.
- According to the Singapore Mental Health Study conducted in 2010, 5.8% of the adult population in Singapore suffered from Major Depressive Disorder, or commonly known as depression, at some time in their lifetime.
- Suicide is the leading cause of death for those aged 10 – 29 years of age
- There are 2.4 times more deaths from suicide in Singapore than transport accidents
- In year 2016, there were 429 lives lost to suicide
- Males account for more than 66.6% of all suicides
- A study published by the Institute of Mental Health has found that women in Singapore, particularly those aged between 18 to 34, are more prone to depression than men
- The World Happiness Report 2018 which ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels has rated Singapore at 34th, a drop from 2017’s ranking of 26th
In case of confusion, having depression doesn’t automatically lead to suicide, but depression is a very strong contributor to suicide. And the reason why males account for a larger percentage of suicide rate than females despite the fact that females are more prone to depression is because males tend to have a stronger execution power. As such, it is more likely for them to execute their suicidal ideas than females.
Now that we’ve highlighted why is depression important to talk about, let’s actually have a look at what depression actually is, and clear up the myths people have about depression. Depression is a certified mental disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals. It is not just an “emo phase” as pictured by many people out there and as readily dismissed. Also, other than people easily dismissing it as being nothing much, we also have the opposite end of the spectrum, where individuals are indeed just having an “emo phase” and they think that they are having depression. So let’s take a look at what does the DSM-5 consider as depression.
Depression DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria
The DSM-5 outlines the following criterion to make a diagnosis of depression. The individual must be experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.
1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
4. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
5. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
8. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
To receive a diagnosis of depression, these symptoms must cause the individual clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The symptoms must also not be a result of substance abuse or another medical condition.
To those of you who are reading this, read through the above symptoms and see if you can identify anyone around you who might be exhibiting these signs. They might actually be unaware of their condition and will really need your help.
1 common misconception that people have is that depression equates to being emo or sad all the time. That may not be the case. What’s very easy to neglect is point number 2: Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day. Someone who’s suffering from depression may not appear to be sad on the surface. But they show very little to no interest in whatever activities they do, and begin to spend a lot more time cooping themselves in their room at home as opposed to their usual active life. They might actually start to skip out on work or school and spend a lot more time sleeping in, not willing to participate in anything.
Also noteworthy is the fact that to be diagnosed as having depression, the individual must be exhibition 5 or more symptoms over the same 2-week period, because it takes into account the fact that there might be times where a healthy individual exhibits these symptoms for a short time span and the symptoms are temporary.
Now that you are more familiar with how to identify the symptoms, let’s talk about how to deal with it.
1. Seek professional help
The very obvious solution is to consult a mental health practitioner such as a psychologist, psychiatrist or a counselor. Being professionals, they will be able to accurately diagnose your condition and be able to correctly identify the root cause of the issue. They will also be able to prescribe the appropriate intervention methods best suited for your condition as well. However, the con of this is that the sessions with mental health professionals may be expensive and are rarely covered in health insurance.
- A third-party who will not judge
- Not readily available (appointment-based)
2. Talk to someone
Find someone that you can trust, not just to keep a secret, but also whether he/she will take you seriously. This might be the second most obvious solution, but also effective nonetheless. Those suffering from depression often feel a sense of helplessness and worthlessness. Hence, by having someone to listen to you, you will gain an outlet to vent, alleviating your sense of helplessness. And at the same time, you will also relieve your sense of worthlessness because there is still someone who’s willing to listen to you and helping you.
- Readily available/accessible
- The trust is already there
- Choice of confidante makes or breaks this method
- Advice rendered may not be entirely appropriate for your situation
3. Engage yourself in a physical activity
This involves the biology behind depression. While there are tons of studies trying to determine the biological causes of depression, conclusive evidence have yet to be found. But what they can agree on is that the imbalance of neurotransmitters in our brain, namely serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine that regulates our mood, sleep, appetite, stress and even sense of pleasure. As such, what you can do is simply to go out and engage in a physical activity such as running or sports. While you can still engage in physical activity in the comfort of your own room, you will need to constantly fight the temptation of simply just foregoing the exercise and crawling into your bed to sleep. As such, put on your shoes and step outside and you will condition yourself to start exercising. The rationale behind this method is that physical activity actually stimulates your brain’s production of feel good chemicals, such as endorphins which help to relieve pain and stress, dopamines which give you a sense of pleasure and as well as serotonins, as covered above, that governs your sleep, mood and appetite.
- Can be done alone
- Readily accessible
- Builds up the physical body’s wellness
- Require self-discipline to make a consistent effort
Above are 3 common and effective methods of dealing with depression and these methods can actually be used together to not only treat your depression but to build up a healthy social life as well as a general sense of well-being. It is also healthy for someone with a functional mental state to partake in sharing with a confidante as well as to exercise regularly to maintain a healthy state of mind.
And with that, we hope that you have gained as insight into depression. If you have any thoughts to share or something that you’d like our advice on, submit them in the link below! We will address your concerns next week!
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