Depression, as a state of mental illness, is only recently gaining prominence in Ghana, within the public non-professional settings. Outside of the medical profession, many Ghanaians are ignorant of this mental health condition and do not realise how common and closer it is to their everyday lives including the fact that it can affect relatives and friends that they interact with daily.
Generally, depression presents as a range of mental ill-health of relatively mild, short-lived spells of mood swings to more severe chronic levels that seriously affect one’s way of life.
Erroneously, people think depression is a condition of western societies. A publication by research gate, however, shows that 39.2% of the population suffer from depression, where 31.1% suffer mild to moderate depression and 8.1% have severe depression in Ghana.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines depression as a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration. This helps us understand that depression affects how you feel.
Different factors come into play that cause depression and although it can affect us highly, it can be managed in the right way by mental health professionals.
Emotional, verbal, sexual, and physical abuse can affect our lives if we do not get help at the right time. For instance, a lady who has been sexually abused at a younger age can grow up with severe low self-esteem because she feels violated. This can lead to severe thought patterns like suicide and self-harm. When there is emotional abuse, especially, from people we care about like family members that do things constantly to hurt us, it can lead to depression.
Death affects everyone differently and how we handle the news of a loved one’s death can lead to depression. In an article by Very Well Mind, there are 5 stages of grief: Denial. Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Unfortunately, some people never make it to the acceptance stage but get stuck in depression, which can affect their daily life and routine.
People with medical conditions can fall into depression. Some conditions like insomnia, chronic pain and the like can cause depression. Since depression affects the mood, a condition of chronic pain could most likely cause the onset of the condition.
Statistics show that roughly one-third of adults who have a substance use disorder also suffer from depression. Among individuals with recurring major depression, roughly 16.5 percent have an alcohol use disorder and 18 percent have a drug use disorder. When people misuse drugs for a very long time, they start to depend on them to feel better or set their minds at ease. Substances like cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, herbs (weed) can be easily abused because of the temporal satisfaction they bring but eventually, these people feel sadness, hopelessness, and isolation and fall back into depression.
Depression can also be caused by a family history of depression. Although this is not usually known, it is common. Scientists observe patterns of illness in families to estimate their risk level of inheriting these conditions. Identical twins, for instance, share a 100% likelihood of depression; if one twin has it, the other twin is likely to suffer from it too. Statistics prove that heritability is probably 40-50% cause for depression.
Conflict to some extent is good because it helps us understand better ways to relate with people. However, when we have a conflict with close family and friends, it can send us into a phase of depression because we have some form of vulnerability with them.
Child Birth is another factor. Shocking right? Naturally, childbirth is expected to bring joy and excitement to the home but when depression sets in, it can be difficult. This is called postnatal depression or what others call ‘baby blues’. This is a common condition with women after childbirth. An article by the Cleveland Clinic says as many as 50 to 75% of new mothers experience the “baby blues” after delivery.
Depression is not a death sentence. It is important to know that depression can be managed properly with therapy and support from family and friends. However, remember that feeling sad does not mean you are suffering from depression.