14 | NOV | 2019
Depression, life-threatening disorder
Darkness reigned – Photo: Featured photography

Depression, life-threatening disorder

Berenice González Durand
Mexico City
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“Darkness from the inside out"

Darkness from the inside out," is Ana's own depression definition. Now, she is aware of her disorder, but when she had her first real crisis, more than 20 years ago, she did not know what was happening to her. She hurt all over her body and she had a terrible anguish feeling that forced her to go to several specialists and undergo all kinds of analysis without any real answer.

Doctors channeled Ana to a psychiatrist, but at the public clinic, there was no specialist.

She was not "crazy," so why bother going to a psychiatrist, her friends advised her to stop taking medications and "to just be strong."

"Sadness is transmissible and nobody wanted to be close to me," says Ana. Of dozens of friends, only a couple were left and even her family avoided her. Darkness reigned. She wore dirty clothes, she skipped meals, she was not able to leave her house alone. She could not concentrate, she couldn't watch television not even read a book, and when she could not stand any more pain, she thought of killing herself.

Her husband and children had to learn about her mental disorder, but finding the right specialist was not an easy task. Some therapies left her more distressed and even choosing the right medication took time, but little by little Ana managed to recover the control of her life and despite the relapses, Ana and her family learned to recognize depression as such, as a disorder that disables and isolates people. She appreciates the advice, but experience guides her now.

María Asunción Lara Cantú, PH. D. Head of the Department of Intervention Models at the National Institute of Psychiatry Ramón de la Fuente Muñiz” (INPRFM), points out that women are among the most vulnerable groups of people affected by depression. Compared to men, women are twice as likely to develop this disorder.

In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) began a campaign on this mental disorder, called "Depression: Let's talk." The overall goal of the campaign was that more people with depression, everywhere in the world, both seek and get help.

According to the WHO, more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015, which ranks depression as the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.

In Mexico, 12% of the population between 18 and 65 years suffers from depression, but only 17.7% have access to the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives, according to Depression and Other Psychiatric Disorders. A Posture Document (La depresión y otros trastornos psiquiátricos. Documento de postura)by María Elena Medina Mora, Elsa Josefina Sarti, and Tania Real.

Shoshana Berenzon, researcher in Medical Sciences at INPRFM, points out that depression is a multifactorial disorder that combines several factors such as genetic load, social factors (poverty, lack of social support, violence), and psychological factors that have to do with adversities in childhood.

Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need. Berenzon emphasizes that it can take up to 14 years for someone facing depression to receive their first treatment.

Berenzon concludes that as long as mental health is not included as a priority program and there is no budget support for research and care, it is difficult to move forward with detection.

It should be noted that even though not every suicide attempt is related to depression, the disorder is an important risk factor for this type of behavior.

The WHO defines depression as a “common mental illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that people normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for 14 days or longer.” People living with depression normally suffer from loss of energy, changes in appetite and sleeping, anxiety, reduced concentration, indecisiveness, restlessness, feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness, and thoughts of self-harm or even suicide.


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