A Dubious Approach to Depression

“Depression is being colorblind and constantly told how colorful the world is.”

– Atticus

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India has finally acknowledged the increasing levels of depression and recognized it as an actual ‘problem’ faced by a large number of people. The Ministry of Health published a poster which suggests methods to cope with depression. However, one must analyze the poster before applauding too loudly for the Health Department as the poster’s approach to dealing with depression is extremely narrow, basic and mundane. It misses out on a thorough understanding of depression and fails to suggest relevant strategies to fight this evil growing globally on a humongous scale.

The Health Ministry defines depression as ‘a state of low mood that affects a person’s thought, behaviour, feeling and sense of well-being’. This description misses the fact that depression is actually the persistence of ‘low mood’ for a long period of time. This persistence is what distinguishes sadness from depression, making depression a psychological disorder. The actual definition by the American Psychiatric Association suggests that depression causes a loss of interest in activities that were once undertaken mundanely or enthusiastically. It is a feeling of being disinterested in ordinary as well as extraordinary things. The description provided by the Health Ministry does not aid much in describing the crux of depression and the problems people facing depression are battling.

Apart from the definition, as shown in the image above, the Ministry of Health also inadequately provides methods of coping with depression. Most of these methods suggest undertaking activities like travelling, following a routine etc. whilst completely turning a blind eye to the fact that depression causes inability to perform activities in an ordinary fashion due to the onset of heavy disinterest. The poster, more than anything, forgets to add ‘talk therapy’. A large number of people could be facing depression due to genetic reasons, environmental reasons, death of a close one etc. Hence, depression arises out of different reasons which call for different types of treatment. For instance, if somebody is facing acute depression due to some disaster which completely altered his/her life, you cannot expect them to practice yoga, or eat fruits, or for that matter sleep for 8 hours and travel around.

The approach to deal with depression as conveyed by the poster is quite narrow and constrained. The methods suggested by the Ministry of Health are too simplistic, one of the measures even suggests taking a walk. A person facing depression mainly needs to communicate his/her problems, insecurities, anxieties which helps provide better clarity. Seeking professional help also leads to customization of solutions in accordance to the situation causing depression. To add on, the Ministry of Health does not even distinguish between acute and chronic depression. The fashion to cope with both of them is different as it requires different amount of effort.

 Most people combating depression also tend to take sleeping pills as they cannot sleep at night; hence the suggestion of 8 hours of sleep is only a day dream dressed as reality. Depression majorly causes disruption in routine activities which then cause a downturn in well-being; hence the suggestion about staying clean is also invalid as a person facing depression has no interest in carrying out these activities. The most bizarre coping method is eating fruits. How would eating a watermelon or banana help resolve depression? ‘Think Positive’ is another vacillating rubric. A person facing depression is clearly undergoing through this disorder due to negativity and emotional instability to a great extent, so one or two positive thoughts like ‘I am confident’ or ‘I am the best person’ is not going to make much of a difference. Thought credit should be given to the Ministry for basing this suggestion simply on the mantra that ‘Something is better than nothing.’

The Ministry evidently failed in studying depression in detail to be able to reflect on it more extensively. They have suggested standard coping mechanisms regardless of it being acute, chronic or the cause behind it whether its drugs, loss of life, heredity etc. They are seeing a subjective concept like depression through an objective lens, thus presenting prescribed coping methods. Depression is often the child of chemical imbalances in the mind, hence eating fruits or travelling will not help fight depression, professional help and medication will.

The Ministry of Health must give utmost importance to professional help. For this they need to normalize psychotherapy. It is high time the Indian society stops calling somebody going to the psychologist /psychiatrist as disabled or mentally unstable. It is this taboo that deepens depression as people fear societal judgments. Further, therapy should be made affordable and accessible. With the clouds of capitalism and politics surrounding us, the people most likely to face depression are farmers, victims of casteism and low income groups who neither have the money to pay for therapy nor the know-how. Medicines for the same need to be provided at subsidized rates in order to help these low-income earning groups to bout this vicious evil and thus prevent suicides.

In a nutshell, while the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare deserves credit for finally acknowledging the presence of depression and the growing evil, the methods of recognition and coping mechanisms show a clearly half- hearted attempt at the same. The quote stated at the beginning of this article strongly contextualises the approach adopted by the Health Ministry in India.

Picture Credits : TED-Ed Blog



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