Educate to Alleviate Depression
A New Dawn
Depression: A Jamaican Perspective
Depression and its Symptoms
Clinical Depression ( major depression) can be described as more than a feeling of intense prolonged sadness and despondence; it is a mental illness that needs proper diagnosis and treatment. Depression is ranked as one of the most prevalent psychiatric illnesses and it is sometimes the root cause of several suicidal thoughts and deaths. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, to be diagnosed with depression the symptoms must persist for at least two weeks. However the good news is that there are warning signs that can be easily detected. Some of the symptoms include but not limited to:
- Anxiety, guilt, lack of interest, mood swings and consistent sadness
- Insomnia, excessive sleepiness or restless sleep
- Social isolation, agitation
- Lack of concentration, suicidal thoughts,
- Weight loss or excessive weight gain
Due to the prevalence of information on the topic, persons are now able to understand and appreciate the disorder in Jamaica. While there are not much study done on the area in Jamaica the awareness level has been heightened. According to the West Indian Medical Journal in a study done on "Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents in Jamaica" 2-6% of persons shows signs of depression. Even though this is a small sample size of the adolescent population, the findings were quite alarming. Using this study to make a generalization on the Country's total population would be cause for concern. In addition the Former Minister of Health Fenton Ferguson challenged the medical community to place greater emphasis on educating persons on the disorder especially young people, after a survey revealed that approximately 23% of young persons on the Island suffered from depression.
Depression and the Jamaica Culture
While depression affects persons across the world, the disorder impacts people and cultures differently,Dr. Bagby an Asian Psychiatrist explains that, "the onset of depression triggers a biological response that takes place within a specific social context, resulting in a cascade of somatic and psychological experiences that are interpreted through a particular cultural lens." Therefore signs of depression in the Jamaican cultural context until recent was initially ignored like other mental illnesses. This is as a result of lack of exposure and education about the disorder at the community level. Therefore, persons who suffered from depression and display withdrawal symptoms were often referred to as "worthless" or behaving like "idiots". Thanks to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Medical Researchers and enthusiast, there has been a wide scale education drive to inform the Jamaican Public about the disorder. Even though persons are been educated about the disorder, more young person as well as older people are reported to have committed suicide. In most cases these victims displayed signs of depression before they died.
Government Policies and Interventions
More needs to be done at the community level to inform persons about the early warning signs of the disorder and how to act upon identifying them. The Jamaican Government needs to create policies that speak to the issue of depression on a National level. This will enable parents and caregivers to detect and act upon the early warning signs and as result save the lives of their loved ones.