Health is not just the absence of illness

By Professor Taiwo Sheikh

Welcome to this week’s mental health conversation, this is a chat room where we discuss the basics of our mental health in order for us to understand and have a full grasp of the rudiments of mental health and well-being.

This is part of our mental health advocacy activities aimed at promoting our wholesome wellness, prevention of mental illness, improving our awareness of mental illness, understanding that effective, qualitative and modern (technology-based) mental health services are available to ensure quality living, harmonious interpersonal relationships, peaceful coexistence within our communities and enhancement of our commonwealth.

That we can discuss mental health in major public forum like this and social media is a significant stride for global mental health and specifically, our local mental health advocacy! Especially considering the enormity of social, cultural and traditional barriers to such discussions.

After several sessions, he felt much better and happier, interest in work was better and he was no longer contemplating to resign, and, everyone was happy. Eighteen months later, the feeling of distress returned and this time with discomforting preoccupation with thoughts of death.

His parents and siblings couldn’t understand why he could be experiencing such emotional turmoil despite that he lacked nothing. He couldn’t think straight and was exploring ways of how to end the “disabling distress”.

He became apologetic to his wife and his sister, telling his wife that he has saddled her with responsibility of bringing up their children. He pleaded with his sister to apologise to their parents for not living up to their expectations.Four weeks ago, the wife returned from work and found a suicide note on the dining table and his corpse hanging from the ceiling!

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Depression is a mental health disorder characterised by persistently sad/depressed mood or loss of interest in pleasurable activities (including work) or loss of energy or a combination of any of these symptoms, causing significant impairment in daily life.

Depression is a common mental disorder affecting more than 264 million people worldwide and about eight million (4 per cent) Nigerians (female 5 percent; male 3.6 percent) and suicide is a dreaded complication of depression.

Possible causes include a complex interaction between biological, psychological and social factors (sources of distress). Increasingly, research suggests that these factors may lead to alteration in some chemicals (neurotransmitters) in the brain that can cause changes in brain function, including altered activity of certain neural circuits in the brain.

The persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterises major depression can lead to a range of behavioural and physical symptoms.

These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, sexual drive, concentration, self confidence or self-esteem.

Depression can also be associated with thoughts or planning of suicide. Depression is a leading cause of disability around the world and contributes greatly to the global burden of disease.

The effects of depression can be long-lasting or recurrent and can dramatically affect a person’s ability to function and live a rewarding life.

Effective treatment for depression is available at the hospitals and in some states even at primary health care facilities including private clinics in Nigeria and, the mainstay of treatment is usually medication, talks therapy (psychological/psychotherapy), lifestyle adjustment (social) or a combination of the three (the combination has been shown to be more effective than using only one of them). Increasingly, research suggests that these treatments may normalise brain changes associated with depression and lead to recovery.

Access to effective treatment in this part of the world is significantly limited by lack of awareness, misconceptions and stigma.

I hope today’s conversation will add value to your understanding of depression and suicide, Depression can have a profound effect on all aspects of our lives, including performance at school, productivity at work, relationships with family and friends, and ability to participate in the community.

There are strong relationships between depression and physical health, including infections (such as tuberculosis, Covid-19), diabetes and cardiovascular disease (such as hypertension and heart disease).

Depression affects all types of people, young and old, rich and poor in all countries. Women are more likely to have depression than men.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.