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
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
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.
Milton Ontario, Canada