Contrary to popular belief, depression is a common disease in Malaysia. It is not just a feeling of sadness; it is a mental health condition requiring treatment. Without treatment, it can last for weeks, monthsand even years.
According to statistics released by The National Suicide Registry Malaysia (NSRM), during the period from January to August, 2010, a total of 425 people committed suicide in our country, which amounted to 10-13 per 100,000 people or 55 per month. This figure is almost equal to that in USA, and is catching up with Japan which has a high suicide rate of 30 per 100,000 people.
Depression is part of life but when it goes unchecked, it can lead to suicide. Depression differs from sadness as it interferes with everyday activity, and is more severe than the former. The common symptoms of depression are both physical and mental, and include the following:
• Feeling helpless and overwhelmed by circumstances;
• Total loss of interest in work, hobbies, and leisure activities(such as listening to music or watching movies);
• Significant weight loss or gain due to over-eating and loss ofappetite respectively;
• Impotence and loss of interest in sex;
• Losing one’s temper easily or becoming grumpy and hostile,especially in the case of teenagers;
• Difficulty in concentrating and remembering things;
• Insomnia or oversleeping to evade facing the real world;
• Aches and pains without any physiological cause.
The following factors are the usual causes of depression;
• No social life;
• Stressful life experiences;
• Family history of depression;
• Marriage or relationship problems;
• Financial problems;
• Examination or work pressure;
• Alcohol or drug addiction;
• Loss of loved one;
• Suffering from incurable disease coupled with chronic pain.
However, experts believe that depression is caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. In other words, your lifestyle choices, relationships, and coping skills are as important as genetics.
Prolonged depression can lead the sufferer to think of suicide and eventually commit the act. When the troubled person feels that life is not worth living, he or she will consider suicide as a means to escape the emotional and/or mental pain. Most suicides are planned and not committed spontaneously. Therefore, some warning signs to watch out for are:
• Talking about going to another world or to meet one’s maker
• Making casual remarks about killing or harming one’s self
• Doing an active search for suicide methods
• Expressing feelings of hopelessness or being trapped
• Seeking more knowledge about death or dying
• Sudden interest in religious beliefs about the after-life.
• Posting messages on social networking sites to say goodbye
• Transferring property or giving possessions to relations and friends
• Saying things like “I am fed up of life”, or “My family will be happierwhen I am dead and gone,”
• A change in behaviour from being depressed to acting calm and happy.
Experts believe that depression is caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors.
How to overcome depression? If you notice depression symptoms in yourself or a loved one, there are several things that can be done:
ASK FOR SUPPORT
The simple act of talking about your problems to family members and friends can have a positive effect. You will feel better and see things from a different perspective, and the problem may not be insurmountable.
MAKE HEALTHY LIFESTYLE CHANGES
Certain lifestyle changes, though minor, can have a major impact on depression.
• Enlarge your circle of friends and avoid isolating yourself.
• Stick to a healthy routine of sufficient sleep and exercise.
• Avoid alcohol and drugs to temporarily forget your woes.
• Think positive and avoid movies, books and music that are loadedwith suicide themes.
• Repeat positive affirmations to yourself everyday before you sleepand upon waking up.
• Practise stress-relaxation techniques.
• Join a support group.
• Do not accept tasks involving a great deal of responsibility
BUILD EMOTIONAL SKILLS
Improve and beef up your emotional quotient. There are several self-help books on this subject. When you are emotionally strong, you are more able to cope with disappointments and setbacks.
SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
If support from family and friends, making lifestyle changes, and building emotional skills are not effective enough, it may be time to go to a mental health professional. You can talk to a psychiatrist or psychologist and undergo therapy with them. They can train you on how to reframe negative thinking and employ behavioral skills to overcome depression.
Herbs such as St. John’s Wort, kava kava, passionflower and ginkgo biloba can temporarily relieve depression but they are not cures per se. Your doctor can also recommend a treatment plan for you. As the treatment takes effect, negative thinking will fade away.
SUICIDE COUNSELLING CENTRES
AGAPE COUNSELLING CENTRE MALAYSIA
Hotline: 03 -7785 5955/ 7785 5689/ 7781 0800
Tel: 03-7956 8144 or 03-7956 8145 (24 hours a day)
LIFELINE ASSOCIATION OF MALAYSIA
Counselling hotlines: 03-9282 1995/ 9285 0039/9285 0049/ 9285 0279
Office tel: 03-9285 0225
KUALA LUMPURHEAD OFFICE:Tel: 03-2693 7555 ext 2173
BUTTERWORTH OFFICE:Tel: 04-3314 795
KG. KERINCHI OFFICE, KL:Tel: 03-2693 4555