Support and care for people with depression must be improved, doctors at China Medical University Hsinchu Hospital said, citing statistics showing that of people who commit suicide, 95 percent have psychiatric issues, with 80 percent of those cases being depression.
Chou Po-han (周伯翰), a psychiatrist at the hospital, quoted the WHO as saying that, by next year, depression would be the second-leading cause of disability in the world, surpassed only by cardiovascular disease.
Multiple studies suggest that depression is not only a mental illness, but also a brain condition closely linked to inflammation and immunological mechanisms, Chou said, adding that it could even increase the chances of cardiovascular disease.
Photo: Huang Mei-chu, Taipei Times
However, in Taiwan, only one-fifth of people with depression have received treatment, he said, adding that most treatment programs are short-term and terminated as soon as the patient begins to feel better.
Many people refuse treatment, chalking up their condition to insomnia or a bad mood, Chou said, adding that a lack of treatment could see the illness worsen and increase the chances of suicide.
Many people think depression is something to be ashamed of, but if people would have a healthy attitude toward those with depression, that would encourage more people to seek help, Chou added.
The illness can be due to genetic factors, no different from being born with an allergy, he said.
People need to learn better ways to talk about suicide, a subject that tends to be avoided, he said.
When talking about suicide, instead of asking “why?” — which might be perceived as confrontational — one should ask: “What has happened?” Chou said.
When people with depression say that they are thinking about suicide, they usually have been thinking about it for a while, as revealing it takes courage, Chou said.
However, revealing suicidal thoughts is linked to a 50 percent reduced risk of them taking their lives, because sharing feelings allows them to gain a sense that they are understood, which offers relief, he said.
However, while support from family and friends is important, some people might engage in emotional blackmail when talking about suicide, making it difficult for others to care for them, Chou said.
Although being emotionally blackmailed can be exhausting, family and friends should still express care to an appropriate degree, he said.
For example, one should avoid being excessively “warm” in their attitude and could say something that shows care, but does not encourage the emotional blackmail, such as: “If you want, we could go see a doctor,” he added.
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