ANOTHER “GREAT DEPRESSION” [Archives:1998/28/Health]

July 13 1998

By :
Waffa Alawi Nasser,
Yemen Times
Depression is a disease, common among many people around the world. Think of it as a negative force which can control your whole life. Many people are in despair, which can often lead to the feeling of being unwanted, helpless, suicidal, aggressive, isolated, lonely, and confused, among other things.
Depression is a serious illness, which people must take seriously, we cannot just think of it as something which will gradually disappear if left alone, because it does not work that way, as with other illnesses they don’t just disappear, that would be a miracle in itself. But depression is a reality and we must face it, and it’s not something to be ashamed of.
People may feel depressed and angry one day, and happy and friendly another day, this may be a case of schizophrenia, a very grave illness which can affect your mind, body, and soul. Manic depression, you could say is an illness beyond (depression). In a few Arab countries, Yemen in particular, I’ve noticed that some people do not believe that one can be mentally ill or depressed, or even schizophrenic for that matter. They would simply accuse you of being “possessed by evil spirits”, and their cure would be to visit your local clairvoyant!
Physical aspect:
Depression can cause great stress to your body, with or without proper medication. Symptoms may include sleeplessness, loss of appetite, head aches, dizziness, and over-all pain basically. explains Mr. S ( a man who has been suffering from depression for a number of years) explains, “I’m not a doctor, I can only describe what I’ve experienced myself.” That is not to say these people are mental of course, it does not make you less intellectual, imaginative or creative. Some people like to do more things than they should, maybe trying to take their mind away from their present dilemmas, it’s still going to be there, you can’t ignore it, well maybe you can but it’s not advised, it eventually may cause a mental breakdown, which is an experience not many would like to encounter, I know I wouldn’t!
Emotional aspect:
All people go through various mood swings, it is normal to be happy or sad, in response to life’s changing circumstances. But for some people these mood swings are more violent and extreme. For depressed people, feeling down and sad dominates their way of thinking and their approach to life. For these people, feeling down is a clinical state of mind, not a transient feeling brought about by an actual real-life situation. According to modern scientific research, the down-beat feeling is brought about by an imbalance of the brain’s chemical reactions. Hence, doctors nowadays prescribe non-addictive anti-depressant medicines to rectify this imbalance. If left untreated, depression may lead to schizophrenia. People may have illusions and find that they have no control whatsoever. Or maybe one day they may reach the end of their patience and destroy whatever and whomever. “I have experienced this once before. I felt somewhat bewildered afterwards, thinking, ‘that cannot have been me’,” explains Miss F, (who has suffered from depression for a number of years), describing her emotional state and distress.
Depressed people generally lack a real interest in social activities, and often fail to appreciate the positive aspects of their lives. Many people become paranoid, isolated, aggressive, and generally distraught basically.
Also they may become depressed for no apparent reason, as Miss G explains (also suffering from depression), “if somebody upset me purposely, I would automatically become depressed, thus, ruining my whole day as it were.
Other people may have a great deal of patience and tolerance, but for me, often that is not the case, I don’t mind being corrected, but to be insulted is a completely different matter, this would cause great distress.”

Compounding Factors in Yemen:
Yemen does not hold many distractions, you can’t really take your mind off anything. There are not many social events for ordinary people to get involved in. There are also not many privileges for women either. There is only for example the local TV or satellite TV for those who can afford it. Women are particularly at a disadvantage because of the restricted nature of society. Except for the immediate family, there are no counseling or support groups to help people cope with their emotional problems. People in general do not consider psychiatric treatment as essential for alleviating depression. They don’t believe that emotional problems can be a real illness, similar to a physical illness.
All the above factors exacerbate depression or any emotional problem for that matter. Many people do not put their emotional problems first, they don’t consider this as important. But what could be worse than perhaps losing your sanity, due to the mistake of leaving your emotional distress last in line. Many people can’t or won’t recognize their emotional problems.
Professional Help:
Local GP’s can refer such people to professional counselors and psychiatrists etc. Tests will be carried out, this can go on for quite some time, trust is essential, although many people find it hard to confide in a complete stranger. But in Yemen, some people would prefer to see a sayyid or a sheikh (sorcerer or clairvoyant).
Good professional help is expensive, and many people cannot afford this, or even don’t believe in it. Some of these
Sayyids or Sheikhs are charlatans, and others use the most extreme methods imaginable, actually I think some of the patients don’t actually get cured, it may even make them worse, their methods may include hitting people on the head with a stick, or strangulation to the point of unconsciousness. This is indeed rather an extreme way of curing their patients, this method as I mentioned may worsen the patients situation.
In Mr. S’ case it did, “suddenly I was in possession of experiencing illusions (seeing things to put it mildly), he explains. But ultimately, a strong belief in Allah is the only cure one would ever need, and eventually you will be answered.
Depression and similar illnesses must be taken seriously, it could happen to anybody. Ignore the cliché “you’ll snap out of it, in good time”. That is not the case, one must be positive. I know it’s not easy, and people need all the help they can get, but being isolated and anti-social does not help. To be isolated may seem like a good idea, at first, but gradually it becomes a problem in itself.
I understand that when people feel this way, they find it a threat to mix with people, they may feel alienated or paranoid, and naturally they tend to avoid human contact as much as possible. Try to talk to people whom you feel you can confide in, if not, then just try to listen, I’m not saying this is a guaranteed cure, but at least try, have confidence, you may well succeed.