Text by Henrylito D. Tacio
Photo credit: WHO
I came to know Mark, a teacher from Davao del Norte, when he invited me to be one of the judges in the provincial school press conference. He was such a jolly person, very attentive and brilliant. I never thought he was having some mental health issues.
Not until he posted in his social media account.
“Lately, I’ve been into a series of depressing moments,” he wrote. “Though I may look alright and well in front of everyone, but deep inside I am battling against this mental condition. It is really a very hard situation as only a few could survive without the support system, like family, friends and God.”
He urged: “Never to say bad things against any usual actions, regard to things, and reactions from your family members, friends and peers without knowing his mental condition because it is a really crazy different thing when you experience it first hand.”
Well, it may be too hard to tell someone if he or she is suffering from depression. But the Department of Health (DOH) has given us some tips:
“The feeling of sadness coupled with losing interest in things one usually enjoys oftentimes being unable to carry out ordinary daily tasks and lasting more than two weeks, are the tell-tale signs one most likely is suffering from depression.”
A few years back, the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) listed 4.5 million depressed people in the Philippines, considered to be “the highest incidence of depression in Southeast Asia.”
Most of those who experience depression are young adults. Unfortunately, our country lacks epidemiological data on depression among these people, according to results from a nationwide cross-sectional survey.
The survey found that about one in 10 Filipino young adults experience moderate to severe depression. “The prevalence of moderate to severe depression in Filipino young adults is higher among females than males,” the survey said.
The findings of the survey seemed to support what Kaniz Fatema wrote in an article for The Financial Express. She penned that depression in recent years is becoming common among young people, particularly the Generation Z or those that were born between 1996-2010.
But their stories are a bit different, if not complicated, from those in the past. In fact, their reasons are pretty unconventional. “The world roughly contains 72 million of this generation and they are also victims of depression,” Fatema wrote.
The information highway has something to do with it. “There is a causal link between the use of social media and negative effects on well-being, primarily depression and loneliness among the young generation,” she wrote.
“Depression has been led by the unrealistic lifestyle and beauty standards set by social media which triggers the users to make an abnormal comparison with their own lives. Also, the connections social media users form electronically are less emotionally satisfying, leaving them feeling socially isolated,” Fatema pointed out.
In the Philippines, the health department said only one-third of depressed people seek professional help.
“Approximately 10% of patients seeking consultation in a family practice clinic are already showing signs of depression, some maybe in early stages of depression, and some in a chronic stage,” writes Dr. Edward C. Tordesillas, clinical associate professor of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the Philippine General Hospital.
Dr. Tordesillas said some patients have gone on what he calls “doctor shopping,” since they were unrelieved of their symptoms.
Those suffering from depression need help. “Depression can happen to anyone,” DOH said. So, anyone who has symptoms and even those who are living with or knows someone with depression should face the problem head-on by talking about it.
“Any person talking to a person living with depression should not be judgmental and watch out for cues when there are thoughts of suicide,” DOH urged.
Suicide or killing oneself is the leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds, according to the United Nations health agency.
The good news is: depression can both be prevented and treated, the health department claimed. “With a better understanding of what depression is and how to effectively respond to it, the stigma attached to it is certainly reduced and it encourages more people to come forward and seek appropriate medical treatment,” DOH said.
There are effective treatments for moderate and severe depression, the WHO says. Examples include cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy, or antidepressant medication.
Psychosocial treatments are also effective for mild depression. Antidepressants can be an effective form of treatment for moderate-severe depression but are not the first line of treatment for cases of mild depression, the WHO says.