By Dr. Fatimah Odusote
Mr. T is a Nigerian industrious banker in his late 30s who resides in one of the bustling towns. He is highly responsible and never indulges. Recently, things started falling apart, his work load increased and he’s always stressed out by the time he gets home. To make matters worse, all his side hustles had not been yielding the expected returns…to put it straight, he was already broke.
As the growing stress and work load was not enough, his blood pressure and gradually he started losing interest in his work, stopped socializing, poor sleep pattern crept in then his body started amassing weight. He had lost all hopes and was already contemplating finishing life himself.
This is the depression story cycle of some Nigerians, which according to according to World Health Organization (WHO) is a common mental disorder, characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks.
From this definition, it is evident that depression is more than a mere low mood as it affects physical, mental and social health. This disorder that derived its name from the Latin word ‘deprimere’ meaning ‘press down’ is however, treatable and does not discriminate. It cuts across all ages, socio-economic class and educational background.
As a matter of fact, it is a common illness worldwide and the number of people with depression is gradually increasing. More than 300 million people are affected by depression. Shockingly, more women are affected with depression more than men!
According to World Bank, it is estimated that 22% of Nigerians suffer from chronic depression (that is a whopping 39.6 million people using our current population of 180million).
It is worth noting that depression usually results from complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors.
Some of these include biochemistry, genetics, personality, environmental factors which include unemployment, poverty, bereavement, violence, neglect, abuse, stress, certain medical illnesses, alcohol and drug abuse, relationship break up, social isolation (this has gradually increased), loneliness (very common in old people), social comparism (eg social media effect).
Perhaps the increased rate of depression in Nigeria could be attributed to violence (over the years in different parts of the country), poverty (nearly 50% of Nigerians live below the poverty line), heightened unemployment and increased substance abuse.
Levels of depression
Depressive disorder can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the number and severity of symptoms. An individual with a mild depressive episode will have some difficulty in continuing with ordinary work and social activities, but will probably not cease to function completely. During a severe depressive episode, it is very unlikely that the sufferer will be able to continue with social, work, or domestic activities, except to a very limited extent.
Symptoms of depression?
Loss of energy or increased fatigue, reduced concentration, indecisiveness, restlessness, sleeping more or less, loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.
Increased purposeless activities, slow movement and speech, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, anxiety, change in appetite.
Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness, thoughts of self-harm.
What can depression lead to?
‘Alcohol or substance misuse, panic disorder or social phobia, excess weight or obesity, which can lead to heart disease and diabetes, family conflicts, relationship difficulties, and work or school problems, premature death from other medical conditions, pain and physical illness, self-mutilation, such as cutting, social isolation’
Depression can result in suicide.
According to WHO, ‘close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.’ Abysmally, Nigeria is rated 10th in Africa in terms of suicide rate and 30th most suicide prone out of 183 Nations in the World.
Dr. Fatimah Odusote is a Medical Doctor.