My friend called me early last month and asked me to write about depression and the part friends and family have to play in the life of the depressed. I agreed, but I just didn’t have energy to write about such a mood dampener so I didn’t write anything. Last week, the same friend that called slit her wrist and now I feel compelled to write about depression.
Unfortunately for her and fortunately for us she didn’t die. Most Nigerians feel depression is a sickness for the oyibos. But it’s actually very common in Nigeria. Most patients in that Psychiatric hospital on psychiatric road, Rumuigbo Port Harcourt, started off being depressed and slowly it turned to outright mental case.
I won’t even lie, until last week, I thought depression was no “biggie” even though I have a cousin who had to see a shrink because she became suicidal, a friend who liked to cut herself, another who tried to hang herself. Twice. And another who drank finger battery acid because he got depressed after he was accused of being gay.
I’m not making this up, but people suffer from depression and I feel so stupid that I’ve just come to realize it’s actually serious. We know so little about depression in Nigeria, we feel it isn’t even a sickness, people joke that Nigerians have no business being depressed, but let’s be realistic, we actually have more reasons than the Americans do.
What exactly is depression anyway? It’s a mental state in which a person steadily feels unhappy and lacks enthusiasm or energy for anything. Just imagine a situation where someone feels he has no reason to laugh or live. Is this not a sickeness?
How to detect depression or any mental illness
- He/she becomes socially withdrawn
- There’s changes in eating, sleeping and hygiene habits
- Starts having thoughts and talks of suicides
- Extreme mood swings/changes
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Difficulty functioning at school or work
- Can’t think straight or has problems with remembering
There are quite a few other symptoms but I’m not fully going into that now. I’m going to obey my friend and write the roles family and friends can play when a loved one is depressed or has any other mental illness for that matter.
First thing you should do is;
The first step one should take is to get an in-depth knowledge on the sickness, find out the symptoms and the ways to manage it. I feel you should just take the afflicted to hospital straight away, but if it can’t work that way, there’s WebMd. Thank God, you can read and investigate so that you can support your loved ones through diagnosis and encourage him/her to seek help.
When my friend told me she was feeling depressed, I thought it was normal. “I’m sad” and I told her to snap out of it. In my defense, Nigerians throw the word around anyhow so I didn’t know it was a serious situation. I made a mistake. What I should have done and what you should do if you’re ever in that position it to understand that they actually need you. They might actually be serious, so if you start blaming, judging them or even taking the situation for granted, you might push them far into their shell and they might just alienate everyone.
Understand that they don’t like feeling that way, just how people with HIV would rather live without the virus, that’s how the depressed feel too. Telling them to snap out of it, or that they are faking it, is not fair. If they could snap out of it they would, so don’t add to their shame and pain, try and be empathetic
You know how they say ‘he don mental or she don kolo’. Please never address them that way, labelling them with that sickness only strengthens it. Try and understand that they are still humans even though you might not want to, but try and understand what they are going through.
You might not be able to pray depression away. (I say might because I’m a Christian and I believe with faith you can move mountains, but I’m also a writer and I want to be realistic) you can’t just hope the sickness will go back the way it came. A depressed person, requires treatment. So ensure you get a doctor involved soon. Whatever the treatments are, it works best when you’re involved. You and other members of your family or friends can help the sick by being part of their recovery. This will assist and speed up their recovery and reduce relapse.
Don’t make the same mistake I made, if I had lost that friend, I would have beaten myself up about it for all eternity. Pay attention to your friends and family and the moment you notice you’re starting to have suicidal thoughts or other symptoms, talk to someone who would help you.
Depression isn’t a joke, let’s stop treating it as one.
I am, @Lord__Nina
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