October 8-11, 2012 is observed as Mental Health Week. Northern Caribbean University and in particular, the Department of Behavioural and Social Sciences will host a number of activities in recognition of the week. The theme that will guide the coordination of activities around the world is ‘Depression: A Global Crisis.’ World Mental Health Day will be observed on October 10, 2012.Below is an excerpt from a journal produced by World Federation for Mental Health which was done in recognition of World Mental Health Day.
Who gets depression varies considerably across the populations of the world. Lifetime prevalence rates range from approximately 3 percent in Japan to 16.9 percent in the United States, with most countries falling somewhere between 8 to 12 percent. The lack of standard diagnostic screening criteria makes it difficult to compare depression rates cross-nationally. In addition, cultural differences and different risk factors affect the expression of the disorder. Worldwide, there are certain risk factors that make some more likely to get depression than others.
• Gender. Depression is two to three times more common in women, although a few studies, particularly from Africa have not shown this.
• Economic disadvantages, that is, poverty.
• Social disadvantages, such as low education.
• Genetics. If you have someone in your immediate family with the disorder, you are two to three times more likely to develop depression at some point in your life.
• Exposure to violence.
• Being separated or divorced, in most countries, especially for men.
• Other chronic illness.
If you or someone you know is depressed, finding appropriate treatment can be difficult, depending upon where you live and the resources available to you. While many treatments can be provided and monitored in primary care, barriers to effective care include the lack of resources and lack of trained providers. Even some of the symptoms of depression can be a barrier to treatment. A person may feel too tired or too overwhelmed to get help.
The first step to finding help is to begin in your community, with resources familiar to you. Try to talk with a healthcare practitioner. If there is no healthcare provider in your community, talk with a representative from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). An estimated 93 percent of African countries and 80 percent of Southeast Asian countries have NGOs in the mental health sector.
These organizations provide diverse services—including counselling, advocacy, informal support, suicide prevention, substance abuse/misuse counselling, and research. In some communities, the NGOs provide the only programs available; in others, they complement existing programs.
If there is a university nearby, its departments of psychiatry or psychology may be able to help. Or consider a telephone directory or community resource book, and look under “mental health,” “social services,” “suicide prevention,” “crisis intervention,” “hotlines,” “hospitals,” “health clinics,” “physicians,” or “health.”
Depression may be unfamiliar to people who are trying to help you. Talk to them about the information you have learned in this document. If you cannot find the help you need, you may need to seek treatment farther away. Utilizing the Internet to find information could be very helpful.
Living with Depression
Living with depression, especially if it is chronic or recurring, can make you feel exhausted, overwhelmed and helpless. These feelings can often make you want to give up. Recognizing that these negative thoughts are part of your depression is one step toward recovery. It is important to take good care of yourself throughout your treatment. This can be hardest in the beginning, especially before your treatment begins to work.
Taking Care of Yourself
Depression is real. It is an illness of the brain that usually requires some form of treatment. It is important for you to recognize this, to take the illness seriously, and to take good care of yourself. Depression can make even the simplest parts of daily living very difficult. If possible, there are some things you can do to make yourself feel better, even if only slightly. Your health care practitioner may make some of these suggestions as well:
• Consider some form of exercise daily. Exercise is good for both physical and mental health. Establishing a regular exercise routine will help maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress levels
• Try to eat a healthy balanced diet every day. A healthy diet, which includes whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, protein, and is low in fat, will help keep your body healthy.
• There are many relaxation techniques to lower your stress, including meditation and deep breathing, which can help with depression.
• Maintain healthy sleep habits, as much as possible. Set up a regular routine for bedtime and morning to be sure you are getting enough sleep, but not too much sleep.
• Avoid and reduce stress. Stress, both at work and home, can increase your feelings of depression.
• Keep your working hours predictable and manageable. Openly communicate with family members and loved ones about what is going on in your life to foster better relationships and elicit their support.
• Create a daily routine. Organizing and planning your day will help to manage the many daily life tasks that you have to do. Create and maintain a monthly calendar.
• Be patient with yourself. For someone with depression, even the smallest tasks can seem impossible.