Depression Story, Interview Essay

1606 words - 7 pages

Marcel is what mental health workers call a "survivor."The grey-haired, 55-year-old Gananoque-area resident, a member of the depression recovery support group at the Leeds and Grenville Rehabilitation and Counselling Services, speaks with difficulty, slowly and with frequent pauses. His eyes are lowered, his hands shake and he works nervously with his pen on the plastic cap of his open pop bottle as he recounts some of the horrific incidents that caused his illness.Other members of the group take fewer than five minutes to outline some of the experiences that triggered their depressions. Marcel, whose every sentence feels like a crippled runner's heroic attempt to complete a full mile, takes ...view middle of the document...

The man's depression so debilitated him that teachers at the time believed he had a learning disability.Now in adulthood, he takes antidepressants but often finds he needs sunlight to stay emotionally balanced.With help from the medication, Elmgrove and the support group, he is now able to live independently where before he lived in a group home.The local rehabilitation and counselling agency looks after people known in the profession as "SMIs," or "severely mentally ill." Cases such as theirs are clearly identifiable as much more serious than what we commonly associate with the word "depressed."But depression has many faces and many triggers, some not as visible as the outward suffering of Marcel and his colleague. In fact, the Canadian Mental Health Association estimates a tenth of the population suffers from mood disorders, either depression or manic depression.Depression, in which a person "feels low" and loses interest in life, is the more common of the two mood disorders, the CMHA notes.In many cases, it's also easier to overlook or pass off as "a case of the blues."The first barrier to treatment is often shame, notes BPH's interim chief psychiatrist, Dr. Pushpakumara Malaviarachchi, who abbreviates his Sri Lankan name to "Dr. Malavi."In reality, depression is not just a mood problem; it's an illness, and it's treatable."It's as real as pneumonia or appendicitis or whatever," Dr. Malavi said. "It's a medical problem. It's not a weakness."And the good news is a majority of people who suffer from depression get better, he said.Dr. Pushpakumara Malaviarachchi, interim chief psychiatrist at Brockville Psychiatric Hospital, says the first step in fighting depression is coming forward and seeking help.Depression can happen to anyone who undergoes an event that is traumatic enough, like losing a loved one, losing a job or suffering the kind of abuse that poisoned Marcel's childhood.It can also happen on its own, the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain - a problem with a strictly physical cause such as, say, diabetes.Often, both a difficult life situation and psychochemical issues are at work in a depression sufferer, Dr. Malavi said.In some cases, people with a biochemical tendency to depression just need something to trigger it."Stress or an event can unmask the depression," he said.Suicide becomes a major risk in people with severe depressions, he noted.Depression sufferers know they have more than a case of the blahs if they notice some common symptoms.The most obvious is a low mood. An early warning sign is a lack of interest in things that usually give one pleasure."Generally speaking, people get preoccupied about negative things in life," Dr. Malavi said. "They feel guilty about mistakes they have made. They start ruminating about morbid aspects of life."Such morbid ruminations can lead people to assume the worst about their own health or dwell on human tragedy. For instance, a depressed person may feel he doesn't deserve to eat...

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