On Wednesday 8th October 2014; my re-sit results were out and I failed. I had to re-do my 5th year of medical training. Where do I start? How do I get over this? ‘‘One day at a time….″ I told myself.
As the days turned into weeks, I felt my strength literally leave me. I was going through a downward spiral of mental anguish, unable to carry out even the simplest of tasks; I slept a lot, thought a lot but ate little. Then I figured; I was depressed.
It was difficult, oh yes, it was! Some days, I woke up with the world on my shoulders, some other days, I didn’t just care. I saw myself as a failure, a disappointment to my parents, my relatives, my friends and above all, myself.
I knew I had to act fast, to stop the “haemorrhage”, so i got to my feet and picked myself up again. I began to talk to other medical students who had repeated, I listened to motivational talks and I prayed a lot. Thank God it helped, it wasn’t all rosy but I got better, I felt better…. “All is well that ends well…” I said to myself.
Then it hit me, what about the “other medical students” who had experienced or will experience what I just went through? What about people from other walks of life? How did or do they cope? Do they know they are depressed? Do they get the help they actually need? Then I concluded; depression is real.
Depression is an illness characterised by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carryout daily activities for at least two weeks (WHO). It affects people of all ages, from all walks of life and in all countries, yes even Cameroon, my country.
It can be long lasting or recurrent, substantially impairing a person’s ability to function at work or school, or cope with daily life. At its most severe, depression can lead to suicide.
According to WHO, depression is the second leading cause of death among 15 -29 year olds.
When mild, depression can be treated without medications but when moderate or severe, people may need medications and professional involvement treatments.
Depression often starts at a young age. It affects women more than men, and unemployed people are also at high risk.
It can affect anyone, no matter your social status. It can be caused by poverty, life events such as the death of a loved one, a relationship break-up, physical illness, and the list goes on and on.
Many of life’s experiences can predispose to depression:
How do you carter for your wife and kids when you just lost your job?
What do you do when you spend several years, looking for a job, but end up sitting at home with your degree in your pocket?
How do you carry on when you suddenly lose a loved one to the cold hands of death or a long term relationship which you cherished so dearly goes to waste?
When faced with such situations, we often feel worthless, useless and helpless. We then use unorthodox methods to mask or alleviate our pain (alcohol, marijuana, etc).
Don’t drown yourself in alcohol, don’t smoke that cigarette. It won’t help.
Find someone you trust; a relative, a friend, a spouse, or a medical professional and talk about it. I did so and it helped. You don’t have to do it all alone. Life is already hard as it is.
Depression is everywhere in our communities; unfortunately, it often goes unrecognized and is frequently attributed to “witch craft″. There’s also very little information available on the subject matter.
Non – specialists can reliably diagnose and treat depression as part of primary health care. Specialist care is needed for a small proportion of people with complicated depression or those who do not respond to first-line treatment.
Depression is treatable; we all have a role to play;
- The governments health sector should organize awareness campaigns to educate the public on the subject matter.
- Health care givers should empower themselves through workshops to be able to properly diagnose depression at its embryonic stage.
- We should all be there for our loved ones when they are feeling down, let’s listen to them keenly, let’s talk with them, let’s let them know that they are not alone. This form of therapy is cheap, effective, and has no side effects.
Depression is more common than we think. Let’s pay attention, let’s talk…
NJANG MBENG EMMANUEL,
7TH Year medical student
Faculty of Health Sciences University of Buea,