by Donella Hosten
As Grenada joins the rest of the world in recognising World Health Day under the theme “Depression: Let’s Talk” on Friday, 7 April 2017, two Senior Medical Officers attached to the Ministry of Health address the issue of depression in Grenada.
Dr Sonia Nixon, Senior Medical Officer (SMO) responsible for Chronic Diseases and by extension, Mental Health, said she believes that the “Let’s talk” in the 2017 theme is “brought up as an annex,” as depression is something that persons do not generally want to talk about. She drew reference to persons who may say they are not feeling well, but due to the stigma and discrimination attached to depression, they are afraid to express exactly how they feel.
Feelings of anxiety, fearfulness, hopelessness, lack of pleasure and isolation are among the gamut of symptoms of depression, lasting for more than 2 weeks. Dr Nixon cited that 1 in every 4 persons will experience depression in their lifetime, and this can range from mild, to chronic, or severe depression.
Simple depression can be traced to situations such as financial trouble, traumatic experiences; whereas chronic or severe depression can be traced to much deeper emotional troubling experiences.
Additionally, the SMO said there are people who are depressed for no external reason, because of their family history of depression. While some can become depressed as a side effect of medications for ailments such as High Blood Pressure and severe illnesses, which tend to be “more difficult to manage.” Some contraceptives can also cause depression.
In addressing the treatments available and how people cope with depression, Dr Nixon stated that “Grenada is no different to any other country in how depression is expressed.” She said females tend to engage in “talk therapy,” which simply means talking to their friends or a professional about their problems or how they feel. Most males, on the other hand, resort to drinking or the use of substances.
For those individuals who experience more severe depression, they can be treated with medication, which, according to Dr Francis Martin, SMO, is usually not the first mode of treatment.
Medications such as anti-depressants can be prescribed by a psychiatrist. This medication takes approximately 2 weeks to start working. According to Dr Nixon, persons can be placed on medication for months, depending on the severity of their depression. Although depression does not always go away, there is treatment. “There is therapy,” Dr Nixon commented. She went on to say that for persons with depression, the “end of the road” can be suicide, hence it is important to identify depression as early as possible, as there is depression in all age groups.
Alhough most literature covering depression mainly focuses on adults, there are cases of depression in children and adolescents.
In addition to the medication and talk therapy, Dr Nixon spoke briefly of the Mt Gay Hospital; the island’s lone mental health treatment facility, which was created because of the need.
There is a significant need for persons to know and be aware of the symptoms and causes of depression. Dr Martin, who is also the President of the Grenada Medical Association, added that menopause in women and andropause in men can lead to depression. “After the age of 40, men’s testosterone levels start dropping by 1% a year, and that leads to some form of depression later on in their life.”
Adding to some of the triggers that Dr Nixon mentioned, Dr Martin noted that abuse, unemployment especially among youths, relationships, stress on the jobs and stigma and discrimination can lead to depression as well. He also stated that the stigma and discrimination attached to depression makes it even harder to treat it, as people are not willing to “accept the diagnosis of depression.”
Going a bit more in-depth about depression and the workplace, Dr Martin said the workplace is one of those areas where depression exists. “The increase of cortisol in our body causes our hormones in our brains to get disorganised.” He therefore urged and encouraged employers and supervisors to be aware of their workers and the work environment.
In speaking about the coping mechanisms of some individuals, Dr Martin stressed on the use of substances, which, in some instances, creates problems in itself. “As a country, as a community, we have to look at all of those persons,” and address human rights issues, gender issues, because “those matters are very significant areas where depression can exist.”
Both doctors agree that the issue of depression is far deeper and cross-cutting, and ought to be talked about across the social strata. Therefore, the conversation of depression must be ongoing.