Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Depression is Just Another Illness

If you found a lump on your side, what would you do? If you felt pain in your chest, what would be your first response? If, after a visit to the bathroom, you noticed that your pee was violent red, where would you go?

My hope is that for each of these questions your instinct led you straight to your local doctor. This is the obvious place to go after all, isn't it? A lump could mean cancer, a pain in the chest could mean myocardial infarction and red piss could be a number of things, all of them unsavoury.

Our reason for alarm is clear in these situations: each one of these symptoms could signal imminent death. Each is a very clear sign that something is wrong with your body and that it is in need of treatment. Why then do we treat the signs of depression differently?

Depression kills. In Australia, suicide is the 14th leading cause of death, making it a bigger killer than skin cancer. These numbers are even worse for males, who made up 75% of those who took their own life in 2012. Knowing it can kill, why do we ignore the signs?

Suicidal thoughts, long terms of sadness and self-harm are tell-tale signs that you are suffering from depression. They are not an indication of your weakness, they're not the start of you losing your mind, they are not even the result of your stressful life—they are signs that you are sick and that you need help.

Your brain is just another organ. Indeed, your thoughts and feelings—all produced by the brain—are just the result of complex interactions between cells and chemicals in your brain. Just like any other organ, sometimes the functioning of the brain goes awry. This is the basis of depression and can lead to devastating consequences.

Depression is a real disease. Its symptoms are real and are just as serious as a lump in your side or a pain in your chest. If you see the signs—in yourself or in someone else—get help. Seek treatment. Save your life.

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