Ministry Of Health, Are You Serious? Depression Can’t Be Treated This Way!

Posted: July 3, 2018

Depression can’t be treated by doing yoga or going for a walk! The recent Ministry of Health poster on depression includes many myths about depression that a lot of us believe.

It was on 25 June 2018 while I was scrolling through my Twitter news feed that a particular tweet caught my eye. It was tweeted by the Ministry of Health and claimed that there are ten possible ways to combat depression. Surprisingly, there was no mention of either a psychiatrist or a professional counselor on that post. The post angered me to such an extent that I decided to pen down this essay. It shows the ignorance of the Ministry (and most people) on how fatal depression can be, that they can suggest ten ways to a patient on how to cope with it without considering any professional intervention.

Before I go into details, here are the ten things that our ministry has advised people of depression to follow so that they can be completely cured of this malady: Follow a routine, Travel, Be creative, Take multi-vitamins, Think positive, Practice Yoga, Stay clean, Sleep for minimum 8 hours, Eat fruits and Go for walks. In one word, I would sum it up as “RIDICULOUS”.

— Ministry of Health (@MoHFW_INDIA) 26 June 2018

Depression, the term itself, indicates the feeling of sadness, grief, lack of interest in daily chores. We do have our share of blues but when the problem persists just know the truth – it is depression and the person needs help; it is not the same as occasional blues or feeling low.

Medical news today provides us with World Health Organization statistics, revealing the grim truth that depression is a major illness worldwide and is one of the main reasons for disability.  350 million people globally, suffer from this ailment. Depression is not a mere irregularity like flu but can bring long term side effects if left untreated. The saddest part is that women are more prone to depression than men.

I would like to highlight certain signs and symptoms of depression to counter the facts suggested by our ministry as a coping mechanism.

  • Mood swings – The depressed person remains in a glum state and here our ministry suggests thinking positive. Please know that when a person goes to a depressed mode, s/he is in a terrible state of mind which calls for professional counselling or even anti-depressants under medical supervision. A positive state of mind can be advocated to a person who is in his/her usual state with some temporary sadness or low feelings, but not to someone who is in a depressed state of mind.
  • Weight loss (without dieting)/weight gain (overeating) – The patient undergoes severe appetite fluctuation. Sometimes, they do not eat for days together and sometimes they can go for uncontrolled eating to fight back the low mood. Here once again the ministry had advocated eating fruits. To a person who is unable to think on his/her own well-being in that state –  how can one suggest such a fruit filled diet?
  • Insomnia (loss of sleep)/Hypersomnia (excessive sleep) – Here again the Ministry advises 8 hours of sleep. With due respect to the ministry I would like to say that it cannot be suggested to a victim of depression. One of the major symptoms of any mental ailment is sleep irregularity and depression is one of them. Therefore please refrain from issuing such unsolicited advice without proper knowhow.
  • Reduced interest in regular activities/loss of sexual desire – Here it has been suggested to be creative! How can you issue such an irresponsible statement? A depressed person is unable to look at such decisions in the same manner they would otherwise, so stop asking that person to be creative. The term “creative” is subjective and it cannot be imposed on a person who is suffering from depression. Also, this unsolicited advice to remain clean? Yes, we do understand the need to maintain proper hygiene but you cannot issue a statement when the person is struggling with regular activities let alone bathing and staying clean.
  • Fatigue – Yes, the person feels tired to such an extent of needing to drag himself/herself from bed, so how will s/he go for long walks? Stop endorsing such statements which can create a negative impact on a depressed person when s/he read the guidelines issued by the ministry. Even those of us without depression often find it hard to maintain a daily routine, after all!
  • Restlessness – The person undergoes psychomotor problems accompanied by restlessness, pacing up and down, panting, breaking in sweats, increased pulse/heart rate etc. Here the statement issued is to practice Yoga. It’s time to stop sounding like a preacher and stop promoting Yoga everywhere. My heart goes out to patients who are struggling with their mental demons and is now being advised to take out a mat and sit and do Yoga. Enough!
  • Reduction of thought process and inability to make decisions – And here the statement suggests travel. Do they even know what they mean by travel? Travelling involves a clear mind and also incurs expenditure. The person should actually be seeing a doctor, or be prescribed medication when needed rather than planning for a holiday by the beach or mountains. And why the hell are multi-vitamins prescribed? In fact no medicine should be prescribed without  medical supervision and here’s my humble appeal to all, don’t listen to this false statement about gulping down vitamins. Do not go for self-medication.

Other symptoms which will in no way be addressed by these ten guidelines are feelings of guilt and suicidal thoughts and attempts of suicide.

I guess I have provided enough facts to counter the utterly foolish statement released by the ministry.

As I said earlier, women are more prone to depression then men; I would also like to state certain facts on depression in women before closing this essay. Says the NCBI that women experience specific forms of depression-related illnesses, “including premenstrual dysphoric disorder, postpartum depression and postmenopausal depression and anxiety that are associated with changes in ovarian hormones and could contribute to the increased prevalence in women…The fact that increased prevalence of depression correlates with hormonal changes in women, particularly during puberty, prior to menstruation, following pregnancy and at perimenopause, suggests that female hormonal fluctuations may be a trigger for depression…Nevertheless, primate and rodent studies consistently implicate a role for female hormones, such as estrogen, in depression.”

There had been a severe outcry on such an inane tweet where depression has been totally misinterpreted. Clinical Depression is a mental ailment with potentially grave consequences which needs immediate medical help. The government should take initiatives where the victim can spell out his/her problem rather than pushing it under the carpet. Dear Government Mandarins, you need a lasting reminder: When you advocate/preach something on depression do not forget that it is not just about feeling low, but it is a “real illness” and one which needs support in the form of medication, psychiatrist help and a counselor.

 

 

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Rimli Bhattacharya is a First class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of

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