Mental Health Awareness Month: Understanding Depression and Preventing Suicide

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Mental Health Awareness Month: Understanding Depression and Preventing Suicide

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues and promoting the importance of mental well-being. One of the most critical aspects of mental health is understanding depression and preventing suicide.

Understanding Depression

Depression is a mental illness characterized by a severely altered mood that is intense, persistent, and affects day-to-day functioning. It is more than just feeling sad; it encompasses a range of symptoms that can severely impact a person's quality of life.

Key Symptoms of Depression Include:

1. Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
2. Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
3. Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
4. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
5. Decreased energy, fatigue or being "slowed down"
6. Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
7. Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
8. Appetite and/or weight changes
9. Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
10. Restlessness or irritability

It's important to note that sadness is only a small part of depression. Some people with depression may not feel sadness at all but become more irritable or lose interest in things they usually enjoy. Depression is not a character flaw and cannot be wished away. Recognizing and treating it early is crucial in preventing a mental health crisis.

Self-Care for Depression
Managing depression involves a combination of professional help and self-care strategies:
1.Counseling: Therapists can teach relaxation techniques and ways to manage feelings
2.Daily Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity can boost mood
3.Healthy Diet: Eating nutritious foods helps improve overall well-being
4.Consistent Sleep: Maintaining regular sleep habits is essential for mental health
5.Avoiding Alcohol and Drugs: These substances can worsen depression
6.Breaking Tasks into Small Steps: This can make overwhelming tasks more manageable
7.Social Support: Spending time with supportive friends and loved ones is beneficial
8.Engaging in Enjoyable Activities: Pushing oneself to participate in fun activities can help improve mood

Recognizing Suicide Warning Signs

Suicide prevention is a critical aspect of mental health awareness. Recognizing the warning signs of suicide can save lives. Warning Signs Include:
1.Talking about feeling unbearable pain, death, or having a recent fascination with death 2.Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or being trapped
3.Feeling like a burden to others
4.Changes in behavior or mood
5.Recent suicide attempts
6.Increased use of alcohol or drugs
7.Withdrawing from friends and family
8.Saying goodbye to friends and family or giving away prized possessions
9.Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
10. Becoming violent or experiencing violence
11. Expressing rage or recklessness

How to Help a Suicidal Friend or Family Member
1.Take Them Seriously: Assume that they mean what they say and do not invalidate their distress.
2.Pay Attention to Language and Behavior: They may express feelings of wanting the pain to stop or feeling like a burden.
3.Ask Direct Questions: Confirm if they are thinking about suicide and assess their immediate risk by asking about their plans and timelines.
4.Encourage Open Discussion: Talking about their feelings does not encourage suicidal actions; instead, it shows you understand their pain.
5.Offer Compassion: Validate their feelings and offer hope with supportive statements like, "That sounds so painful, and I appreciate you sharing that with me. How can I help?"
6.Continue to Offer Support: Stay in touch and encourage professional help. Help them find a mental health professional or offer to accompany them to appointments. Mental Health Awareness Month is a reminder of the importance of recognizing and addressing mental health issues like depression. By understanding the symptoms, practicing self-care, recognizing suicide warning signs, and offering compassionate support, we can make a significant impact on mental health and save lives.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned or you know someone who is, you can contact us for professional help by calling 0741 364 732 or 0722 696 901.

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Outspan Medical College

Off Baden Powel Road

P.O Box 1955-10100 Nyeri | Kenya 

Mobile: 0702303777


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