Having met many people who suffer from depression I wanted to learn more about it and try to understand it better. It’s one of those complicated illness that not many people understand yet so many suffer from it. The world health organisation estimates that 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression and that women are twice as likely to develop depression than men. Depression is also the leading cause of disability worldwide. So this is my notes from the course I attended.
Many people think that depression is solely a illness that’s “just in your head” yet when you look at what the professionals say, that’s not quite true.
Depression is a psychological, social and biological illness. So the cure also has to be psychological, social and biological. It has to be a combination.
So how can we help ourselves or someone we know that has depression? We firstly we have to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of depression. We have to be able to know the difference between someone being sad or upset and someone being depressed. Sadness is not depression, that’s a normal human emotion. It’s what happens when we go through a stressful situation or a hardship. But it does not necessarily mean that you are depressed. Although sadness is often what people associate with depression it’s not what depression is. So what is depression like?
Depression is like drowning, except you can see everyone around you breathing.
Some of the signs and symptoms of depression are:
You can’t sleep
You can’t concentrate
You can’t control your anger
You are no longer interested in your hobbies
You are no longer interested in eating food you normally like
You are always tired no matter how much sleep you get
It feels like everyone else is moving forward in life but you’re stuck in the same place
You feel hopeless and are unable to stop negative thoughts no matter how much you try
You have unexplained aches and pains
When we recognise these symptoms we should seek help. We can seek help from many places; from your local imam, your family and friends or your doctor or a therapist. It can be difficult to accept help from anyone but it is easier to overcome depression with help. They can support you and help encourage you.
There are 2 main ways of seeking help from healthcare professionals:
1) psychotherapy/counselling – there are many different types of counselling available and studies have shown that it can be as good as medication.
2) medication – there are many misconceptions about taking anti-depressants but studies have shown that taking medication increases your chances of helping overcome depression by 50-60% but it does take time for the medication to start working so you will have to be patient when you start taking them.
Along with seeking help from others you also have to help yourself. You have to change something in your life and break the cycle.
Depression leads to low energy/fatigue which leads to decreased activity and neglecting responsibilities which leads to increased guilt and hopelessness this then in turn make the depression worse. This becomes a vicious cycle.
To break this cycle you have to make a change, it doesn’t have to be a big change even something small can help to break it, but it has to be something you know will help you. it could be anything from taking a walk daily or exercising or reading or writing or even doing some art work.
One of the best things we can do to overcome depression is to follow the sunnah. The Prophet (saw) taught us so many things which teach good mental health. So doing things like spreading salaam, smiling at others, keeping family ties, being good to your spouse, avoiding the haram eg. alcohol, eating in moderation, being modest and giving gifts can help us to feel better within ourselves and so in turn help us to overcome depression. This is just a short list of things he (saw) taught us, we can find many more examples throughout his seerah.
We look at others “perfect” lives on social media and then we see all the horrors that happen around the world on the news. It’s like whiplash. We see two extremes and caught up in this. We spend time on social media looking at the “amazing lives” people are living but we feel we can’t attain this so we feel low. But this is only a snapshot of their best times. We don’t really know what their lives are like outside of social media.
Don’t dwell on the past, move forward towards your goals. Look to the example of the prophet (saw), he didn’t dwell on his persecution in Makkah. He moved to Medina but still smiled and carried on living his life. Look to those who are worse off than you, it will make you grateful for what you have and encourage you to help.
Don’t dwell, do.
Know it WILL get better. Depression can be cured.
Remember that we have an afterlife waiting for us.
Reading Surah kahf every Friday will give us a light from one Friday to the next. Learning the stories can help us. Look at the story of Khidr, we learn that something happens to you that you perceive as bad but we don’t know that everything ahead is good. Only Allah knows what’s ahead.
Verily with hardship there is ease. Verily with hardship there is ease. Quran (94:5-6)
This is the only place in the Quran that something is repeated. It’s addressed to someone who is going through hardship. These people may not hear the reassurance the first time so He says it again so that we can allow it to penetrate and hear it.