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Depression, Psychiatric Disorders and the Rising Spate of (attempted) Suicides

Depression, Psychiatric Disorders and the Rising Spate of (attempted) SuicidesThere is always a reason for every action under the sun; these actions or reactions emanating from whatever triggers may however, be positive or negative. Looking at life from the prism of every individual, every intention and action is for a ‘good purpose’ – rightly or wrongly so; it is their own world view. But most importantly is the question of whether the person so concerned is mentally stable; you would also want to consider if such an action is ecological; is there a reasonable mind at work here?

Consequently, at this stage we begin to consider the role of psychiatry and mental health care. What is the role of psychiatric hospitals, and how do people in this part of the world perceive them? Just sometime last month it was a case of a black Sunday for the family of Dr. Allwell Orji, a medical doctor who took his own life by jumping off the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos.

And, a day later or so was the case of another person – a woman who had plunged herself into the lagoon at Maza-maza area of Lagos, but got rescued, even as two other women, Taiwo Momoh and Mrs. Abigail Ogunyinka, on two separate incidents also attempted suicide from the third Mainland Bridge within the next one week and also got rescued after embarking on the ‘unlawful’ act. By the way, these are not merely isolated cases. There had been numerous other cases even from way back in the past, but there seems to be a rising spate of this that calls for worry.

Stress leading to depression

Experts say many at times depression is at the root cause of these actions. And you would want to ask – what could be the factor leading to depression, a constant feeling of sadness and hopelessness? Research has identified chronic stress however, as a leading factor in many health issues including depression. And the causes of stress are as many as they are varied. Dr. Don Colbert is an American board certified family practitioner, and expert in anti-ageing, nutritional health, and preventive medicine. He says that the causes of stress are what we are all well aware of.

These are issues having to do with “finances, relationships, job problems, health, or sudden traumatic events.” Others are linked to “a myriad of minor stressors like computer trouble, traffic, poor customer service, dirty laundry stacking up, cleaning the house, conflicts with friends or family members, loneliness, or even aggravating lights or noise in your neighbourhood.” And in Nigeria especially, how can we forget the issue of power supply? Colbert notes that basically, stress comes in two different categories: things we can and should control, and things we cannot control.

The mind and body connection

In this part of the world however, there is a unique problem experts and the citizenry must get consciously familiar with. If we do not take it head-on we will continue in a vicious cycle. First of all, there is an urgent need to re-orientate the masses regarding mental ill health as a reality of modern (urban) life. There is the problem and tendency of the Nigerian to attach spiritual meaning to everything; in a highly ‘religious’ society this could be extremely health hazardous.

We must also become aware of the reality of the mind, body and spirit coexistence in a human entity; one cannot be divorced from the other. Religious leaders too must begin to understand that there are people who are trained with expert skills to deal with different issues of life, and learn to direct their members accordingly, and not assume to be master of all while things get out of hand. Thus we ought to be our brothers’ keepers – showing good neighbourliness, while recognising also the role of various experts in their callings such as, Guidance/Counsellors, psychiatrists, and professional Therapist, etc.

It is important to note that the mention of mental illness or psychiatry does not necessarily connote ‘madness’. Experts say mental illness is also very much curable, but we need to be more vigilant, and encourage anyone who shows traces of mental ill health to seek medical or expert help before too long. And since stress leading to depression is usually at the bottom of most of these occurrences it becomes paramount therefore that we get in tune with stress-busting techniques in order to curb this present nagging social malaise that could manifest in people deciding to take their own life.

Ways you can prevent or deal with depression

Joseph F. Goldberg, MD, is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, USA. In an article reviewed on WebMD Medical Reference, he states that “Although clinical depression is a highly treatable condition, some forms of depression may not be preventable. That’s because depression may be triggered by a malfunctioning of nerve cell connections in certain brain circuits.”

But he confirms that latest research findings prove that the condition may often be eased and even prevented through healthy lifestyle adjustments. Some of these include – eating healthy diet, engaging in fun and relaxation. A very important lifestyle to adopt of course he says, is getting “regular exercise” such as (brisk) walking, biking, swimming, dancing, etc. This combination will deal with stress that is likely to gravitate to a depressed mood.

Research has proven that physically active people usually exhibit less anxiety and little or no signs of depression at all. This is because according to a scientific theory, aerobic activities for example, produce high levels of norepinephrine, a chemical – a catecholamine precursor of epinephrine, which is secreted by the adrenal medulla and also released at synapses. “Norepinephrine helps the brain deal with stress more efficiently,” Dr. Colbert said.

Always open up, and share your problems with people around that you can trust and rely on, and be positive minded too. Remedy is available, and may just be lying around the corner for you. And if you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression that last for more than one or two weeks, please do seek professional help.

Morgan Nwanguma


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