This year's World Health Day theme is "Depression". When we think about health, we rarely consider mental health, which is just as important as the physical one. Depression especially has a bad reputation, because people always think that it's something that a person with depression can control, if they just look at things from the bright side.
Depression is a mental illness, just like - say - cancer, is a physical one. It's not an on and off switch, it's a disease caused mostly by chemical imbalances in the brain, and that's why severe depression needs to be treated with medication. People with depression need coping mechanisms and support (professional and personal), and what they don't need at all is judgement. It's not easy for them, and we all should try not to make it harder and make them feel guilty for something that is mostly out of their control. In fact, the leading cause of death in youth is suicide induced by depression, and seeing as no one ever likes being in this state, this means that if people with depression were able to just "snap out of it", they would.
Here are the early signs of depression to look out for and get help before things spiral out of control: sadness, hopelessness, irritability, guilt, loss of energy, loss of interest, sleep changes, appetite changes, and suicidal thoughts.
Depression can strike any gender, age or social status, and sometimes triggered by sudden life events or hormonal changes, such as post-partum depression.
If you know someone suffering from depression, be there for them, try to convince them to seek professional help. If you are suffering from depression, please seek help as fast as possible just like you would for any illness you have, and never ever feel ashamed! There is no shame in illness.
Remember: depression is not sadness! If someone is sad about a situation, it's a normal feeling. Depression is when sadness is accompanied by emptiness, and doesn't go away no matter how a person's circumstances change.