On 5th June Fashion Designer, Kate Spade was found hanging with a red scarf around her neck at her apartment in New York. Her husband Andy Spade reported that she struggled with depression and anxiety for many years. According to Kate’s family, she struggled for years with bipolar disorder. Her sister revealed that Kate would self-medicate her mental illness with alcohol as she was too scared to seek professional help in case it damaged her brand. This hesitation in not seeking help cost Kate her own life.
In most countries, women are more likely than men to develop depression. Most of us have experienced days when we experience lethargy, sadness and show disinterest in any activities. They are a common response to life’s everyday stressors. However, depression becomes a disorder when the symptoms become so severe that they prolong for a long time(weeks) and interfere with our normal functioning.
Three days later after the world was still getting to terms with the famous icons tragic death, another suicide stirred everyone around the world. Anthony Bourdain was a famous celebrity chef, author, television personality and travel documentarian who appeared in shows to explore cuisine, culture and the human condition. He was found dead in a hotel room in France while working on an episode in his famous show “Parts Unknown.”Bourdain had used the belt of the bathrobe to hang himself in the bathroom. Its unknown what caused him to take this drastic step but depression is a leading risk factor for suicide. No one can forget his picture with Barack Obama which flashed on every social media portal when both of them shared a meal in Vietnam when Obama was on a trip to Asia in 2016.
According to the statistics of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in USA men die by suicide almost 4 times more than women and the rate of suicide is highest in middle age. In 2016, 9.8 million people had serious thoughts of suicide, 2.8 million made a suicide plan and 1.1 million attempted suicide, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. This means that there is one suicide death every 11.9 minutes, and one suicide attempt every 29 seconds.
The month of June witnessed two high profile suicides of Kate Spade (5th June) and Anthony Bourdain (8th June). Both of them were at the top of their game, led successful professional lives yet suffered mental health difficulties which the world was unaware of. Their deaths have placed a spotlight on the ever-rising rate of suicide. According to the data revealed by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates in every state increased in 2016, with rates rising more than 30% in half of them.
There is a social stigma that is attached to words like depression, suicide, bipolar disorder or any mental health problem which leads many who are undergoing the same to keep it all to themselves. Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist remarked “Depression has been called the ‘invisible disease’ because there’s not an X-ray we can do. There’s not a blood test we can do and so it is so prevalent and yet so under-recognized.”
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
A person who suffers from depression must either have a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities consistently for at least a 2 week period. Depression is characterized by 5 or more of the following depressive symptoms:
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day as indicated by either subjective report or observations made by others.
- Insomnia (inability to get to sleep or difficulty staying asleep) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much) nearly every day.
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities every day, such as no interest in hobbies or any other things the person used to enjoy doing.
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or significant weight gain, or decreased or increase in appetite nearly every day.
- Fatigue, tiredness or loss of energy nearly every day- even the smallest tasks seem difficult to do and take longer than usual.
- More days than not, problems with sitting still, including constant restlessness, pacing or picking at one’s clothes (psychomotor agitation); or the opposite, a slowing of one’s movements, talking very quietly with slowed speech (psychomotor retardation).
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
- Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideas without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy is used to treat depression by talking through your triggers and responses with a mental health professional. The different types of psychotherapy that can be effective in treating depression
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Research has proved the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (C.B.T) in the treatment of depression schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress, bulimia, anorexia, anxiety disorders, alcohol dependency and personality disorders.
- Interpersonal Talk Therapy: This form of therapy is focused on resolving interpersonal problems and symptomatic recovery.
- Problem Solving Therapy: This form of treatment helps individuals to manage the negative effects of stressful life events effectively.
- Brain Stimulation Therapies: Electroconvulsive Therapy(ECT) is an effective form of treatment for depression. In severe cases where an immediate response is necessary or medications cannot be used safely, Electroconvulsive Therapy can be a first line intervention. Other types of brain stimulation therapies used to treat depression include transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS).
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) medications are both effective treatments for depression. Other possible medications include norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRI), atypical antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI). Please consult a doctor before taking any medication.
However, severe cases of depression can require hospitalization. Hospital setting helps patients stay safe until their mood improves particularly when the patient is having suicidal thoughts or suicidal attempts.
- It is important to maintain an active lifestyle and indulge in regular exercise.
- According to an article I read in Science Daily, studies have shown that building a strong connection to a social group helps clinically depressed patients to recover faster and also helps to prevent its relapse.
- Set realistic goals and do not overload yourself with more than what you can handle.
- Do not isolate yourself from others and let others help you or reach out to them.
- Do not expect your situation or mood to improve immediately. it is a gradual process