Depression: Root Causes and How To Get Help

Are you experiencing mood changes, a lack of interest in school, wanting to be alone more often, a loss of appetite or not being able to concentrate? You could be experiencing symptoms of depression. It’s normal to have different moods, but when these symptoms persist, it’s important to alert your teacher, a friend, the school nurse or a family member.

Understanding the root cause of why you’re feeling this way?

You don’t have to go to a psychologist or psychiatrist at first, I would recommend visiting a General Practitioner i.e. a doctor in your area or even a local clinic. It is important to first receive a diagnosis. Alternatively, speaking to your friends, family, doing sports or even visiting religious sites helps. If are still experiencing any symptoms, then I would recommend seeking medical care. Seeking medical care for depression is not a once-off process, depending on your diagnosis, you will either be referred to a psychologist, or even be prescribed medications. It is extremely important to go for your regular check-ups and monitor your progress. Getting to the root causes of why you’re feeling this way is important, a professional can assist you with this. Reasons or root causes for example could be the death of a family member or friend, or perhaps bullying at school or even social media affecting your mental and emotional health. A technology and social media detox can also do wonders.

What happens if you don’t get the necessary help for depression?

We all deal with depression or tough life experiences in different ways. What works for someone else may not work for you. If we ignore our symptoms, these issues may affect us immediately, in the long-term or even much later in life both mentally and physically. As a teenager, you’re at real risk of suicidal thoughts and even suicide. You may practice self-harm e.g. cutting yourself or even severe mood swings. Patients experiencing depression tend to have unhealthy eating habits, either over or under-eating or indulging in unhealthy food habits, leading to issues linked to weight gain. In a depressive state you tend not to have energy, you may have severe mood swings, turn to substance use such as drugs and alcohol. You are at risk of other health issues such as anxiety and having panic attacks and even avoiding going to school.  If you’re in a vulnerable position you may also enter into relationships which could be toxic, or where you’re taken advantage of sexually.

What to do if someone you know is showing symptoms of depression?

  • Don’t judge, be there for the person, listen and keep these conversations private.
  • Try not to use stigmatizing language, you will notice throughout the article, I tried to avoid words such as ‘mental condition, disorder’, these experiences are completely normal.
  • Try to find and advise on help e.g. finding a doctor or encouraging that the person speaks to their family or teacher about this.
  • Support the person through the entire journey.
  • Get in touch with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) for help

About the Author: Dr Shakira Choonara is an award-winning public health practitioner, 2017 Woman of the Year in Health in South Africa and a Lancet Commissioner on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing.  Dr Choonara is appointed to roles at both UN Women and the World Health Organization. tweet/ insta/ threads @ChoonaraShakira

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send a Facebook message or a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).