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      August 31, 2013


Increased Prevalence of Depression

Growing up in Chitral, while in middle and high school, I had never heard of the word depression nor knew of its deadly consequences. It is really heart breaking to hear how often many people, especially youth, are suffering from various forms of depression and consequently committing suicide. The recent tragedy in Chitral where a young medical student killed himself and his counsellor is indeed shocking and alarming. I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the bereaved families and pray that Allah give them the courage and strength to cope with their loss and may the departed souls rest in eternal peace.

Depression is a serious mental illness that intensely affects how we feel, think and eventually behave. In severe cases, depression can last for years and it robs lives or can cause permanent disability. It is deep, painful and a distressing disorder that is best managed with external support mechanisms. It is an illness that needs to be taken seriously and needs immediate intervention. Each individual manifests symptoms of depression in her/his own distinctive way and the causes and effects are also unique to each individual. There are so many symptoms associated with depression. Some of the common symptoms include: change in appetite, decreased energy, sleep disturbances, feeling weakness, headaches, muscle aches and pains, having difficulty in remembering things, personal inadequacies, hallucination, and loss of interest, hopelessness and excessive guilt.

As we all know, the topic of depression has become more publicly widespread and it is now well recognized across the continents. It affects both genders, male and female. Some of the research indicates that worldwide, depression affects 15% men and 25% women at some point in their lives which accounts for more than one hundred million individuals. Obviously, depression is not isolated to Chitral. While researching this topic, I was very shocked to find out that three million Canadians have serious depression and only one third seek help (Mood Disorder Society of Canada).
The good news is that depression is a treatable disease if proper interventions are put into place in the early onset of the disease. The more prolonged one goes without treatment can adversely worsen the situation results in further psychological damage which in some cases is harder to treat. Regrettably, there is no convenient tool such as ultrasound or X-ray machine to diagnose depression. It is only through a series of questions and behaviours examined by a psychiatrist that determines the severity of the illness.

There is no proven evidence as to what exactly causes depression. However, there are a number of different theories referring to the varying factors that may cause depression such as chemical imbalances in the brain or family history. It also linked to stressful events such as death in the family, job loss, over use of medication, negative thinking, lack of will power, history of childhood physical and/or emotional abuse, medical illnesses, lack of social support networks, low income, unemployed and stigmas attached to unmarried individuals. In women particularly, factors that may possibly cause depression include oppression, childbirth and menopause. Regardless of what the causes are, it is important to know that depression can be successfully treated if the individual seeks help for this condition.

As you can see from the above, contributing factors are influenced by social, biological, physical and/or psychological factors. At this point, it is difficult to determine the factors leading to an increase in depression rates in Chitral however further analysis is required. The healthcare institutions and the community at large should examine the increase to figure out what preventative measures can be put into place to control the onset of depression as well as, explore the many options available in treating people who currently have this condition. Immediate attention needs to be paid to this area as research in this particular field indicates that depression among youth also has adverse effects on their peers and families.
Some of the treatment options involve medications, psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, interpersonal therapy, peer/social support, and in severe cases, hospitalization to ensure the safety of the individual themselves as well as the safety of others. Each of the treatment options have not been elaborated on in this article however if there is further need or interest, additional information on above treatment options can be provided.

The key message is that depression is a treatable disease that can intermittently affect any of us throughout our lives as a result of external or internal factors. Knowing the symptoms and taking action, early on, to seek help will assist in controlling symptoms and in enabling one to live a productive and fulfilling life. Support from family/friends is another strong component in dealing with depression. I agree that the launch of a mental health program in Chitral specifically addressing gender and different age groups will be a big step towards successful rehabilitation of individuals. An extensive network of players within the healthcare system and from within the community in Chitral need to collaborate to support and advance this initiative.

Mir Hassamuddin
Milton Ontario, Canada



mail @ chitraltimes@gmail.com

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