A spate of recent suicides by well-known public figures reaffirms the fact that depression is a silent killer and must be spoken about more openly and more often.
Depression is a mental disorder, rather than a disease, which would be treated as a contractible illness, and which can easily be remedied through treatment and therapy. It basically refers to a condition whereby the individual suffering from it is constantly in a depressed or low mood, lacking interest in any activities, even day-to-day activities, thus adversely affecting daily life as well as health. Depression can further give rise to health problems, such as insomnia, sleep disorder, anxiety, hypertension and high blood pressure, diabetes, heart diseases, and stroke, and can prove fatal as well as recently seen in the news and in many other previous instances.
Occurrence of depression
Depression in some form is present in almost all countries, across continents, borders, races, religions, economic and social strata, and also all age groups and genders (though women and the elderly who are suffering from chronic health conditions are more at risk). In fact, it is believed that one out of six Americans suffers from depression or one of its forms.
The question then is, if depression is prevalent around the world, why is so little known about it and even less spoken about it? Do you remember encountering a friend, family member, or acquaintance who tells you outright that he or she is suffering from depression and is seeking or undergoing treatment for the same? And if or when that happens, do you remember your own reaction of uneasiness? Why is it that many cases of depression are still not diagnosed or not treated while depression continues to assert its presence as a silent killer? Why is there a lack of information regarding its symptoms and ways to access help regarding the same?
The reason is that there is a stigma attached to the disorder. Depression may be viewed as a mental disease (with the emphasis on the word “mental”) that only the weak (mentally and physically) can suffer from.
Many also view the symptoms of such psychopathological disorders as either uncomfortable or threatening, thus giving rise to hesitation or discrimination with patients who display symptoms, thereby leading to a stigma.
Depression—it is a disorder, not a stigma
Anyone can suffer from depression, at any point in one’s life. The stigma associated with it being a disease of those with poor upbringing or character flaws or due to chemical imbalances of the brain or a genetic problem, apart from being baseless, are also the reasons for the discrimination against those suffering.
Additionally, it must be noted that depression, bipolar disorder, and similar conditions are referred to as “disorders” and not diseases because a disorder is something that is not in order or is out of the ordinary. On the other hand, disease is defined as “a condition that impairs the normal functioning of the body and is distinguished by clear signs and symptoms.” Diseases have diagnostic tests for affirming the condition whereas there might be no standard diagnostic test for depression, but it is a mental condition nonetheless requiring counseling, therapy, and treatment from trained professionals instead of discrimination and stigma.