Depression is a serious condition that can have a range of destructive effects on one’s life. Among other things it can cause lethargy, loss of interest or enjoyment for usual activities, feelings of isolation and alienation, loss of judgement, low immune system, loss of appetite, poor self esteem and much more. Most seriously of all however it can also lead to thoughts of death, suicide and self harm and at this point depression becomes a potentially life-threatening condition. At this point it is absolutely crucial to get medical help in order to protect yourself and others and to treat the causes of the depression before it worsens.
Unfortunately however ‘depression’ is a difficult term to define and many people are unaware of whether they have ‘depression’ or not. With most illnesses and injuries the point at which to attend the hospital is clear – it is as soon as the patient finds themselves unable to go about their usual tasks and at which the symptoms are threatening to worsen. Depression on the other hand comes on slowly and starts as nagging feelings of doubt. This all only goes on inside the person’s head so there are no visible symptoms that others can pick up on. People tell you to ‘snap’ out of it and you try to ‘pull yourself together’, and the lack of judgement and self worth that comes with depression only makes it harder to recognise that you need help and to act accordingly. In fact many suicide attempts are actually an attempt to get hospitalised and to get help from professionals but such drastic measures are not necessary – if you tell a health professional that you think you have depression they will take this seriously and will treat you as they would any other condition.
If you have depression and are having suicidal or hurtful thoughts, even if they do not seem ‘serious’ you should treat this as you would the early symptoms of any condition. It is not usual to have these thoughts and if you don’t get them addressed then they could well worsen to the point where your life is in danger. You may be able to control the feelings and they may go away, but just like any other illness it could also easily go the other way. You wouldn’t ignore a mole that had become deformed, so you shouldn’t ignore thoughts of death either.
Also look out for the other symptoms of depression which include:
• Loss of interest
• Lack of libido
• Muddled thoughts – sometimes called ‘brain fog’
• Low self esteem/confidence
• Feelings of failure
• Aches and pains that have no apparent physical cause
• Difficulty completing simple tasks
• Lack of appetite
• Weight loss or weight gain
• Physical restless
• Slow movements
When you notice these symptoms and as soon as you notice the first thoughts of suicide then you can head to an emergency room and tell a nurse precisely how you feel. They will then send you to a psychiatric floor in most cases and you will be sent to see a psychiatrist. They will present you with options such as medication which can help to readdress the balance of hormones in your brain – particularly if you seem to be in immediate danger. You will likely be encouraged to stay in the hospital for a week to two weeks and during this time you will be able to wear your own clothes and provided with hospital food. During this time you will also be able to receive visits from friends and family and will be able to speak with psychiatrists and support groups filled with other people going through the same things. All these things can help you to alter the way you think and to change the chemical balance of your brain, and at the same time the break and time away from the pressures of daily life can also sometimes be enough to help you feel better. Much like many other diseases and illnesses, the sooner you get treatment and help, the more likely you are to make a full recovery and be able to continue with a happy and full life.
Note: If you really don’t feel comfortable going to a hospital then you should still seek help and there are many ways you can do so anonymously by calling helplines such as the Samaritans. If you feel more comfortable speaking with close family or friends then you should take this route and let them know what you are going through so that they can be there for you and help you to get through this difficult time.