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Doctors Corner: Depression Exposed

Have You Ever Tried Sleeping With a Broken Heart?

This month has been a month of loss for me personally. Terrible loss. And I have felt the effects of these losses in a way which has at times been unbearable and excruciating. Especially when it seems nobody has any time to hear of your concerns, or wants to recognise why you are down. When people want to cover their eyes and ears to your darkness because it brings them comfort, rather than be there for you in the way you’d want and need them to be. It’s painful.

Depression affects more people than we would care to imagine. Depression is more than ‘feeling down’, which is a natural everyday response. Depression lingers for weeks & months, and is severe enough to begin to affect one’s daily routine. It is a silent disease, a disease of loss. Loss of appetite. Loss of sleep quality. Loss of drive pursuing the things which you enjoy the most – hobbies, food, sex, etc. It is prevalent amongst our schools, it is a squatter in many homes, it is a regular church-goer. Without treatment or attention, depression can derail careers, destroy relationships and ruin lives. Depression hides amongst us in plain view, especially in the Ghanaian community.

BasicNeeds-Ghana-photo

However we tend to not want to call a spade a spade.

Depression, as with many other mental illnesses, tends to be asked to go away in our community. People are asked to suck it up. People seek for a cause or root, when many times there is none to be found. There is a habit in the Ghanaian community to attribute depression’s irrational darkness and the suicidal ideation which can result as being caused by the devil or demons or witchcraft. That’s a whole other topic for another day. However the main point is that depression is an illness, a disease. And the first steps to treating it are to recognise it for exactly what it is.

We as a community have done a great job in bringing particular diseases to light and raising awareness of them. There are many charities and projects which have sought to shine a light on diseases such as sickle-cell and autism, which is great. However mental illness is still a dirty word in our community, and as such remains criminally-misunderstood and even more criminally mismanaged – this is something I am passionate about and hope to cover in more detail later.

I could write tons and tons about medication and other therapies, but I want to make clear that social support stands amongst the best of treatment options. And the only way we as a community can strengthen our abilities to grant social support is if we began to be honest about mental illness, uncompromising, educated, and ready to manage it properly. For now, let’s look out for our depressed brothers and sisters, and give people less of a hard time when they are feeling ‘down’ in such a severe way. Let’s try and offer as much support as necessary, and learn more about the illnesses of the mind. Hopelessness and helplessness can arise, but depression is highly-treatable, and by recognising the signs and doing something about it, you can make sure that your Black Star shines bright once again.

Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Every month Dr Bamfo will shine the spotlight on physical and mental illness on the Me Firi Ghana Blog. Any information published here is not a substitute for medical guidance you receive from your General Practitioner (GP) pertaining to your own health and  you should always follow their advice.