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Depression is REAL

2 weeks ago · · 0 comments

Depression is REAL

Depression is a diagnosis given to someone who is experiencing a low mood and who finds it hard or impossible to have fun or enjoy their lives. Depression can make it tough to enjoy life, especially when feelings of despair and hopelessness always persist.

We don’t talk about it as much as we talk about other diseases, but you’ll be shocked to know that 300 million people worldwide are suffering from depression. Depression and bad mental health have been ignored as a serious issue since ages. But, do you know, depression can also lead to death if it gets worst?

The number of people with common mental disorders globally is going up, particularly in a country like ours, where mental illness is confused with ‘madness’ and considered a taboo topic. That is one reason why, cases of depression, anxiety and other serious mental disorders go largely unreported in a country like ours.

Depression is ranked by WHO as the single largest contributor to global disability. It is also the major contributor to suicide deaths. A recent WHO report provides evidence about the same. India is the most depressed country in the world, leaving USA and China behind. Of course, you can’t actually ‘see’ depression and anxiety the way you might do a physical ailment on the body.

What is depression?

Depression is not the same as being sad or experiencing grief, although it can be triggered by specific events. Many people will talk about not knowing why they feel the way they do, or not having any idea how to feel better. They will have been feeling like this for a long time, to the extent that it is interfering with their everyday life and stopping them doing things they would do normally.

To describe what living with depression and anxiety is like to anyone who doesn’t understand or hasn’t experienced it before is to imagine a heavy weight pulling your body down, so heavy that every-day you have to summon up the strength to push against it and to lighten the impact.

A doctor will diagnose someone with depression by asking questions about whether they have certain thoughts and feelings, and how often.

A diagnosis is not a label. It is simply a tool to help professionals decide what types of treatment and support to offer. Diagnoses may also change over the course of someone’s lifetime.

How common is depression?

Depression is one of the most common mental health problems. It is hard to say how common, as people often talk about it differently and some will never receive an official diagnosis, but it is estimated around 3 in 100 people will be experiencing depression in any given week. 8 out of 100 people will be experiencing a mixture of anxiety and depression.   

This will be many more of us over a course of a lifetime and the likelihood of you knowing someone who has or has had depression is very high. 

How does depression affect people?

Someone who is experiencing depression will often describe feeling down, hopeless or empty. They can feel like they don’t have any motivation and that it’s impossible to enjoy anything anymore.

Everyone responds to depression in different ways. But some common behaviours that people with depression and their friends and family describe are:

  • Cancelling plans with friends, or giving up hobbies they normally enjoy
  • Staying in bed for long periods of time
  • Changes in appetite
  • Using drink or drugs more often
  • Snapping at family and friends
  • Avoiding or calling in sick to work, school or university.

There’s no easy cure for depression but support and therapy are one of the most effective cures for depression. Often confused with sadness and pessimism, it is easy to mistake this mental disorder for just a “low point” in life. People experiencing depression can undergo intense emotions of anxiety, hopelessness, negativity and helplessness. Loved ones, caring for someone with depression, should get alert if they notice signs of severe depression, such as alcohol or drug abuse, sleep disturbance, thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts.

When to see a doctor?

If you feel depressed, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as you can. Depression often gets worse if it isn’t treated. Untreated depression can lead to other mental and physical health problems or troubles in other areas of your life. Feelings of depression can also lead to suicide.

If you’re reluctant to seek treatment, talk to a friend or loved one, a health care professional, or someone else you trust.

With treatment and support, most individuals with depression can fully recover.

Identifying and Improving Mental Health in the Workplace

3 weeks ago · · 0 comments

Identifying and Improving Mental Health in the Workplace

Managing stress — and seeking professional assistance from mental health experts when needed — can help combat mental illness on the job.

What is workplace stress?

Workplace stress is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope’, and elaborated that it can be caused ‘by poor work organization (the way we design jobs and work systems, and the way we manage them), by poor work design (e.g., lack of control over work processes), poor management, unsatisfactory working conditions and lack of support from colleagues and supervisors’.

While workplace stress, stigma and attitudes towards employees suffering from stress or mental illness have been researched and interventions developed to address them better, globally, it still remains an often neglected aspect across different industries and countries, including India, and only a few of the learnings are actually implemented.

Common Sources of Work Stress

What causes this stress? From research and various surveys, heavy demand, lack of control over work, low level of support from colleagues and management, bullying and harassment, constant change, are the culprits. You can know you are stressed when you start worrying about work at home, dread going to work, lose sleep and /or appetite and become increasingly short-tempered.

Certain factors tend to go hand-in-hand with work-related stress. Some common workplace stressors are:

  • Low salaries.
  • Excessive workloads.
  • Few opportunities for growth or advancement.
  • Work that isn’t engaging or challenging.
  • Lack of social support.
  • Not having enough control over job-related decisions.
  • Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations.

Tips to Manage Stress

Here are some recognised and proven Stress Busters to help you combat the strains of work-related stress:

  • Recognise signs early
  • Don’t bring work home
  • Learn to say no
  • Always take breaks
  • A few minutes of exercise every day goes a long way
  • Speak to your supervisor; employers have a duty of care
  • Create a network of support: family, friends & colleagues
  • Get involved in activities you enjoy outside work, ex: hobbies, voluntary work, learning new skills, something positive to cherish
  • Avoid smoking/drinking excessively to cope. Alcohol worsens low mood
  • Use time management strategies to work efficiently
  • Accept things you cannot change, like a full ‘in tray’, irrespective of how hard you work
  • Learn Relaxation Techniques. Meditation & Yoga can help
  • Contact your occupational health department, they may be able to access professional counselling for you
  • Attack the root cause. Ask questions like: Do I like my job? Could I be better somewhere else?

If all above fails then it is advisable seek professional mental health advice. Depression and anxiety disorders can come in the guise of stress. These are treatable disorders, requiring assessment, treatment and support.

What can employers do?

Employers can address and reduce excessive workplace stress by focusing their efforts at the following three levels:

  • Prevention level: by developing organization-wide policies and practices in the following key areas:
    • Training for leaders and supervisors on effective ways to reduce stress;
    • Working with employees to create challenging but realistic goals for optimal performance;
    • Communicating clearly and managing conflicts respectfully;
    • Identifying and using employees’ strengths and skills for career advancement;
    • Compensating fairly;
    • Ensuring safe work conditions;
    • Modelling work-life balance;
    • Building in opportunities to formally recognize individual and team goal achievement;
    • Creating a work climate that encourages social support and connectedness; and
    • Developing ways to reflect on positive daily workplace events and accomplishments.

Adopting effective stress reduction strategies also holds promise in preventing depression13 which can be costly to employers.

  • Targeted early identification and intervention level offer employees the following options:
    • Stress screenings and information on stress reduction and the early warning signs of mental health conditions;
    • Effective intervention programs like cognitive-behavioural therapy for stress management;
    • Programs that effectively address stress like mindfulness, relaxation, yoga and tai chi and encourage exercise, emphasizing the value to mental and physical health; and
    • Programs that improve resiliency.

When is the right time to bring up mental health concerns with your supervisor?

Disclosing a mental health condition is no different than disclosing any other medical condition. It depends on the purpose of the disclosure. Think about why you want to disclose your personal information. Share it on a need-to-know basis. Like any medical information, it is up to you about whether you want to be confidential. You might need to ask for time off, and you will need to share this with your manager. Sometimes you need to disclose because hospitalization is required.

How will you know when it is time to get professional help?

If you have experienced a change in mood for two weeks or more, you should speak with your primary care physician, a psychiatrist or another mental health professional.

Workplace stress can significantly impact the bottom line. However, it can be managed to improve productivity, employee health and to create a more positive workplace climate and culture.

4 months ago · · 0 comments

Five Common Myths related to Depression

By Dr. Ananya Choudhury

January 28, 2019

Myth: Depression only happens to people who are weak and do not have a strong mind. Reality:Depression in a disease arising from imbalance in the neurotransmitters in the brain and has nothing to do with weak mind.

Myth:Depression only happens when there are lot of stressful situations in your life. Reality:Depression is not always preceded by stressful situations in fact many people may have a very stable and uneventful life prior to its onset.

Myth:People can snap out of Depression. They just need to think positively and engage in positive activities and do yoga to recover. Reality: Engaging in yoga and positive lifestyle is useful for everyone but once there is an illness its needs treatment and people cannot just snap out of it.

Myth: Depression is an illness found only in rich/ affluent people. Reality:Depression affects people of all ages, gender, caste, creed and socio economic stratas.

Myth:Once you start medication for depression you will become dependent on them and will never be able to leave them. Reality: Medication given for depression are not dependence producing and they are tapered off once the patient is well.

4 months ago · · 1 comment

Over four million Indians suffer from schizophrenia

Dr Ananya Choudhury

June 27, 2018

Schizophrenia is one of the most devastating illnesses known to mankind. As with other illnesses, this one too does not discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, community, socio-economic strata or race. Statistics say one in 100 people suffer from schizophrenia. Shockingly, of the total 25 million schizophrenia cases, India accounts for anywhere between 4-8 million! Sadly, about 40-50% of such cases are untreated.

Schizophrenia patients show a variety of symptoms. These include delusions (false beliefs), hallucinations (seeing, hearing, feeling things which do not exist), disorganised thought (irrelevant or incoherent speech), disorganised behaviour (aimlessly moving about or grossly abnormal behaviour), lack of emotional expression, motivation and initiative.

While the exact cause of schizophrenia is not known, a number of genetic as well as environmental factors are responsible for it. Generally, it starts in adolescence and may carry on for months and years before being recognised. A person may remain normal in between the attacks of schizophrenia but with each successive attack a little of brain is damaged. So it is important the disease be recognised and the treatment started at the earliest.

It has been seen that though the disease is equally prevalent in men and women, men respond poorly to medication as compared to women. However women face more discrimination, abuse and delayed treatment. Many such patients either leave their homes on their own or are thrown out of the homes. So homelessness among such patients is rampant.

There is a variety of treatment available, and if you notice a person with schizophrenia, you must advise the family to go for treatment. The treatment includes medications (oral antipsychotics, long acting injectables), individual therapy (aimed at providing understanding about the illness and supportive sessions), family therapy (educating the family about the illness and how to manage the patient and to manage their own emotions), lifestyle changes (adopting a healthier lifestyle) and psychosocial rehabilitation (aimed at successful reintegration into the society).

Dr Ananya Choudhury is senior consultant psychiatrist at PsyCare, Jasola Vihar (New Delhi) and has over a decade of experience in treating people diagnosed with schizophrenia