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Talking About  Depression is a Must
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Talking About Depression is a Must

Living in today’s fast-paced world means coping with pressure and a slew of challenges that life brings. In times of great stress and crisis, it is normal to react with anger, helplessness, fear and guilt. But it is very important to recognize when these emotions or feelings have gone beyond the ‘normal’ range and when it is important to seek help. Health experts say that mental health should be viewed in the same way as physical health. Unfortunately, the stigma around mental disorders means that people are not comfortable to discuss them with others or take steps to seek professional help. With Mental Health Week (Oct 10-16) being marked across the country, a closer look at depression would help raise more awareness about the most common mental problems in Iran and around the world.
According to the World Health Organization, depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 350 million people affected. Depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life. Especially when long-lasting and with moderate or severe intensity, it may become a serious health condition.
It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and function poorly at work, at school and in the family. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Suicide results in an estimated 1 million deaths every year.

 Latest Data
According to the latest data released by the ministry of health, the prevalence of mental    disorders in Iran is 23.6 % and among them 12.7% suffers from depression.
The call for action to tackle this malaise is felt more than ever before with mental health professionals sounding the alarm. “Raising awareness and removing the stigma is the first step,” Dr. Mohammad Arbabi, psychiatrist and member of the Psychiatric Association told Health Weekly. But despite the fact that 80% of a person’s well-being is affected by their mental and social well-being, mental health is largely overlooked in long-term health programs.
‘’Although mental disorders are quite widespread, mental care is allocated less than 3% of the health budget,” says Arbabi. He points out that social stigma is an obstacle to addressing the issue: ‘’Many of the people struggling with mental or mood disorders either hide their problem or refrain from visiting a doctor- since they don’t want to be viewed as weak or pessimistic individuals,’’ he maintains.

 Diagnosis
Depression is often difficult to diagnose because clinical depression can manifest in many different ways. For instance, some clinically depressed individuals seem to withdraw into a state of apathy. Others may become irritable or even agitated. Eating and sleeping patterns can be exaggerated. Clinical depression may cause a person either to sleep or eat in excess or almost eliminate those activities. Arbabi says any behavior that is likely to cause disruption in normal behavior pattern should be taken seriously and dealt with promptly. “For instance, if anger issues are causing problems at home or in workplace, this means something is wrong,’’ he says. Immunization is the key to prevent mood disorders. Stress management, mindfulness, communication skills, healthy diet, and exercise can help “us to buffer against depression and other mental disorders.”

  Help is Available
Often, the first step towards getting help is asking for it. Some people feel comfortable talking to friends or family members, but for those who don’t there are many other ways to seek help.
Dr. Ahmad Hajebi, head of mental health at the ministry of health, says the top priority is to identify mental disorders “in a faster and convenient way.” Early diagnosis makes the burden lighter on everyone, he says. The second step would be to take ‘’ preventive measures’’ to buffer against mental and mood disorders, like teaching more ‘’life skills’’ and ‘’parental skills.” Hajebi dispelled concerns about the high cost of psychiatric treatment by pointing out that mental health care in state-owned hospitals is covered by insurance. He said all institutions should join hands “to help lift the heavy burden of mental disorders on the society.”
On World Mental Health Day (October 10) UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his message, urged people suffering from schizophrenia to go for regular health checks and seek advice on healthy living. Around the world, some 21 million people suffer from schizophrenia, a mental disorder that affects perception, cognition, behavior and emotions. A key reason “is unhealthy lifestyle, such as smoking, poor diet and lack of regular exercise,” he said. People with severe mental illness also die on average between 10 and 25 years earlier than the general population. Yet, that can change.

 Therapy
Even the most severe form of depression is treatable through proper mental and physical health care and advice on healthy lifestyles. It can be diagnosed and treated by trained health workers delivering primary health care. From therapy to medication to healthy lifestyle changes, there are many effective treatments that can help a person overcome depression and return to normal life.
There are several types of anti-depressants but misconception about medication is also preventing those with mental disorders to seek treatment.
‘’By believing that treatment in psychiatric centers means only taking drugs, many stay away from seeking help and thereby, deprive themselves from psychotherapy too,’’ says Arbabi who is also a psychiatry professor at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti Medical School.

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