BASED IN SOUTH AFRICA
Tinashe is a young writer based in Southern Africa. Their focus is issues affecting mostly the youth but also the general population as well. They are also a psychology student at the University of Johannesburg.
The Growing Pains of Depression
As someone who knows first-hand how draining depression can be I don’t think enough is being said or done to help those going through it. Mental health has been a neglected and shunned upon topic over the years and so the many of us who are dealing with it are forced to suffer in silence. Few of us do however find spaces we feel comfortable to open up about this sickness but often little is known by our fellow commoners on how to help or what to do.
It doesn’t have to be like this forever. We are blessed to live in a time where education on these sorts of topics lies at the click of a link. With that being said join me in a deep dive into the world of depression and pick up a few take-aways’ to help yourself and your community.
Disclaimer! This is not coming from medical point of view nor is it professional advice, simply an opinion of ours here at FTP and as such should be taken with a grain of salt.
By definition Depression/Major Depressive disorder is a mental illness that affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. What does this look like? On the inside it’s often feeling down, extremely under the weather and consistently sad. A person tends to drown themselves in self-pity, failing to find good reasons to live. You experience periods of low self-worth and high self-doubt.
Whilst on the outside it looks like never wanting to be around people. Often you’ll avoid your friends and family, opting to be isolated and but still feeling lonely. Abandoning hobbies and activities once enjoyed, alarming weight loss and poor eating habits. A big part of depression is terrible sleep patterns, either sleeping too much or not at all. The most alarming of all the symptoms? Thoughts of death and suicide.
Well why should you care about all this? Why does it matter?
Depression is an illness that affects each and every one of us at some point in our lives. A lot of individuals are quietly suffering in the shadows, their cries bottled up inside and their pain compounding by the day.
This could be your brother. You sister. Your parent, relative or friends. If they mean something to you it would probably do them justice to not only know what to look out for but also know how to help as well.
Looking at the bigger picture depression deals a great blow to our societies as well and should be treated with the same urgency as any other injury or sickness that we see and go through.
Depression could be the reason that one employee has just turned into the worst version of himself. Sluggish and unproductive. It could be the reason why your best friend who was once an A* student is failing all their classes and about to drop out. Barely attending classes, and when you do see them they don’t look like the version you once knew.
Depression could be the reason your mom drinks herself to sleep every night after work, numbing the pain of all they may be going through. It could be the reason a lot of people turn to drugs, to cancel out the noise of the demons they may be fighting.
Depression is costing us our jobs. It’s costing us our breadwinners, our communities and our families and friends, and one of the biggest reasons for this is the stigma around it and many other mental illnesses.
It’s very unfortunate that in many communities there is a negative light cast on those who are struggling with mental illness. Too often do we hear things like, “you just need to go to church” or “stop being so weak”. People often make it out to be your fault that you are going through this, which is never the case.
I don’t think anyone wakes up and decides to take on depression. Such comments are very destructive and do a lot more damage than we know, especially when they come from those close to us.
It doesn’t help that mental health services are very expensive. Being able to see a counsellor or therapist is already looked down upon, now factor in that it costs way more than the average person can afford. Chances are, not too many of us are getting the help we need.
So what now? What can I do? What can you do?
A lot of people get caught in their tracks on their way to aid the struggling people around them. With all the good intentions it can still be challenging to try to help someone with something you’ve never encountered before. As someone who’s been on both ends of the spectrum I think these are some good tips to try when helping anyone with depression:
Listen – A lot of the time people battling with depression just need someone to talk to. They often have a lot of pain bottled up inside and are looking for a release, someone to air their thoughts and feelings to or even just a couple of minutes to just distract them from what bothers them on the inside.
This shouldn’t be a once of thing, especially if it’s someone you are close to and are in constant contact with. One of the worst things for a person dealing with depression is to open up to someone just to see them scared off by what their everyday life is. So you don’t need to throw yourself into their lives, but care enough to lend an ear every now and then to show them that they’re not in this alone.
Learn more about Depression – it may sound like a lot but one of the best things you could do for someone you care about is taking time to read up on how you can properly address and help them with their illness. There are many doctors, social workers, reading materials, videos and more on the topic of mental illness, available on our smart devices and at most local hospitals, clinics and some schools and libraries. It would do them and your relationship with them a great deal of justice to read up just a little to better the quality of your help.
Encourage them to seek professional help – as much as you care you cannot fix them or their problems on your own. Like all serious illnesses be it mental, physical or otherwise it is best to reach out to trained professionals to deal with the bigger, more complex issues concerning the problems at hand.
Support them – When dealing with depression it can often seem hard to see progress and have a clear picture of where one is at or where they are going. Don’t hesitate to cheer them on along their journey to a better life. Applaud them on even the smallest of victories and try walk with them when tackling challenging parts of their lives.
Patience is key – Everyone is at a different part of their journey to overcoming their depression. Whether it takes 3 months or 3 years there’s no time limit or final stage where they should be with getting better. Part of this patience needs you to remove any expectations on where you think they should be along their journey. You aren’t walking in their shoes so you can only understand so much about what they are going through. There is no space for judgement or negativity either, only love.
Keep them in the loop – Depressed people may often have a hard time maintaining good social lives and ties, and as such, doing small things to keep them keep up to date and connected to their surrounding world can go a long way. It could be sending out open invitations to social gatherings or events or it could be providing them with notes from classes they’ve missed so they don’t fall behind.
Take care of yourself - I think this is one of the biggest pointers I could give anyone trying to help those around them. As much as you love and care for the person or people you are trying to help it’s never okay to lose yourself in the process. You have your own life and your own set of problems that need tending to. Neglecting your needs will turn your world upside down and then you won’t be much help to anyone around you.
This is just but a handful of the many things you can do for those struggling with depression. The list goes on and on but what matters most is that you lead your walk with them with love. There is not enough said about this topic but we can find hope in the increasing number of people positively working towards dealing with mental illnesses and the chaos that often surrounds them.
As someone who has struggled with this myself I want anyone out there fighting the same battles to know that it does eventually pass. This pain and struggle is not forever and life does get better.