Although almost everyone at one time or the other experiences a period of sadness, most people get over it within a short time. But for some people, the sadness continues and degenerates into depression. Studies show that the rates of depression in women are twice as high as they are in men. This is due in part to hormonal factors; could be premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), postpartum depression, pre or post-natal depression and peri-menopausal depression. The good news however is that depression can be contained.

Now, depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behaviour, feelings and sense of well-being.

Some people describe depression as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom. However, some depressed people do not feel sad at all—they may feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic, or in the case of men, may even feel angry, aggressive, and restless.

It is important to note that depressed mood is not always a psychiatric disorder. It may also be a normal reaction to certain life events, a symptom of some medical conditions, or a side effect of some drugs or medical treatments.

The truth is that there is no single cause of depression. You can develop it for different reasons and it has many different triggers. For some, an upsetting or stressful life event – such as bereavement, birth, divorce, illness, redundancy and job or money worries – can be the cause. Other causes include abuse (physical, sexual, medication); conflict; death or a loss; and genetics.

After giving birth, some women experience postnatal depression, and it has led to a number of maternal deaths. Often, different causes combine to trigger depression.

Whatever the symptoms, depression is different from normal sadness in that it engulfs your day-to-day life, interfering with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and have fun. The feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness are intense and unrelenting, with little, if any, relief.

If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms, and they just will not go away, it could be depression: insomnia or oversleeping; inability to concentrate or finding that previously easy tasks are now difficult; feeling of hopelessness and helplessness; pessimism or uncontrollable negative thoughts; persistent sadness, including fits of crying either uncontrollably or being set off easily; feelings of anxiety or emptiness; unusual weight gain or loss, overeating or appetite loss; irritable, short-tempered, or more aggressive than usual; forgetfulness, or feeling a sense that life is hopeless, pointless and futile; recklessness or suicidal thoughts.

Depression is a major risk factor for suicide. The deep despair and hopelessness that go along with depression can make suicide feel like the only way to escape the pain.

However, as terrible as it sounds, there are ways to overcome depression:

1. Accept that you are depressed.
2. Recognise the cause of the depression; knowing the cause will make dealing with it easy.
3. Keep company of happy people. (Proverbs 13:20)
4. Seek medical care (if necessary).
5. Fellowship with God. Edward Welch, a licensed neuropsychologist and faculty member at the Christian Counselling& 6. Educational Foundation in Philadelphia, encourages the people he counsels to speak to God, and “if the pain is too strong, and there are no words, to read from the book of Psalms.”He suggests that they “speak the hard things from our hearts to the Lord.”
Other suggestions include limiting the consumption of caffeine and alcohol because they can aggravate anxiety or trigger panic attacks; eating healthy and exercising often (this not only helps keep you fit, there is also the release of a rush of endorphins which makes you feel instantly happier).

James 1:2 : Asks us to “Consider it all joy when we fall into various trials.” Notice that James does not tell us to feel joyful; he tells us to reckon, to choose to think about our situation from a joyful perspective.

Even when you experience unpleasant situations, either at work or in the home, it does not have to degenerate into depression. If you are however depressed, understand that suicide is not the solution. Seek solace in the Word of God and the company of those around you who are happy. As the scripture commands, “Rejoice always,” regardless of what is happening around you or to you. You can make a commitment to be joyful!

– Pastor Nomthi Odukoya