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Depression: An irreversible dark disease

In Korea in 2017, the word 'self-esteem' has been used in numerous ways. Self-improvement books to increase self-esteem have become bestsellers and several self-development course have been popular for a long time. Modern men who have to compete with themselves, people around them, society. When we look at it closely, it seems that there is a piece of 'darkness' in our minds. These sculptures of darkness are covered with my favorite things, people, but they are not treated like my own thoughts and minds. This sculpture that comes from living in the world, hard to bear, changes in my body, this sculpture’s name is 'depression'. Recently, as one member of the popular k-pop boy group Shinee, Jong-Hyun, died from suicide due to depression, fear and alerts of depression in our society increased. Why are our modern people depressed and how do we get out of it healthy?

 

Depressed modern people

In a survey conducted by Job Korea on 910 workers, 68% of workers were lively outside the company, but experienced depression when they entered the company. According to data about depression treatment from the National Health Insurance Corporation, the number of people suffering from depression in 2015 has reached over 6hundred thousands, 641,011 in 2016, and 61,0264 until November 2017. In the questionnaire surveyed by the Disease Control Centre for 10,000 adults aged over 19 in 2015, the items "I have been feeling sad or desperate for two consecutive weeks in recent one year" One in eight adults (13%) answered "Yes". This survey showed that about 5million of Korean adults (total about 41million) are the "high risk group of depression" which experience depression. if we spread to various mental diseases such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, An analysis show that one of the four adults (25.4%, 10.46 million people) suffers it once in a lifetime. Experts say that depression is "a common disease like a cold".  it means that depression is a disease that anyone can experience once in their lives.

The causes we are depressed 

If so, why are we depressed? The causes of depression are various. Environmental factors such as love, death, separation, loneliness, unemployment, relationship to opposite sex, conflicts and stress in the workplace, physical and medical side effects such as cancer and endocrine diseases, stroke, and brain neurotransmitter degradation are stated to be reasons. Then, Let’s talk about biochemical factor first. Unbalance of brain neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and so on can lead to depression.It is known that serotonin, a substance mainly presents in the gastrointestinal tract, platelet, and central nervous system of humans and animals, and feeling happiness, is associated with depression.Reason why depression is contracted to women twice more than men can be explained by a biochemical factor. Although women generally have a higher serotonin level than men, but women respond sensitively to slight changes in serotonin levels, so It is more likely to get depression.Women respond more sensitively than men because the imbalance of female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone before and after the menstruation cycle stimulates the brain and changes serotonin.In addition, hormone imbalance is one of the factors of depression, which tends to occur in women with pregnancy or menopause or who near to period. And second factor is genetic one. Depression is a multifactorial disease with very complex and various virulence factors.However, recent studies made people to focus on the heredity of depression.Several studies have reported that depression is more likely to occur in families with depression. One study in the American Journal of Psychiatry conducted an inquiry to 147 children who have severe depression and non-depressive parents for 30 years.As a result, the children of depressed parents had three times greater risk of major depressive disorder than children of non-depressive parents. More seriously, incidence rate of depression to children with depressed parents before adolescence is 10 times higher than children with non-depressive parents.In the case of identical twins, the concordance rate of occurring depression is about 50%, this fact indicates that the genetic predisposition of depression is large.Research is currently underway to find genes that cause depression.  Last factor we need to focus is environmental factor. The environment surrounding you may also have an impact on depression. These environmental factors are difficult to cope with in life, such as losing a loved one, economic problems, and strong stress. Today, our society is focusing on this factor the most, and modern people who are living in an age that is vulnerable to stress are exposed to depression easily.  According to a report on the analysis of causes and responses of socio-psychological anxiety in Korean society by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIEP) released on January 1, the result showed that 34.7% of Korean adults (aged over 19) feel stress plenty, 3.2% of them feel stress extremely much and 56.2% of the respondents answered that they feel a little stress. It means more than 90% of all respondents feel stress usually. Only 5.9% of the respondents said they did not feel it. In fact, many entertainers ended their lives with depression due to various stresses such as exposure to privacy, rumours. The actor Park Jin-hee conducted a survey on her master's degree at Yon-Sei University's Graduate School of Social Welfare in 2009 and found that "40% of actors think about suicide." Even 20% of the actors have responded that they have "prepared for suicide". This is an example of the severity of depression due to environmental factors.

 

Depression, reasons why we do not think it easily

In general, depression causes a sudden drop in concern and interest in life. Firstly, depression Increases the possibility of suicide. The most serious consequence of depression is suicide. In reality about two-thirds of depressed patients think about suicide, and about 10 to 15% of them move to action. Also, 80% of suicides were depressed patients. Secondly, Depression can be a problem in everyday life. Most depressed patients complain of energy loss in their lives, which complicates difficulty in completing the task and does not have the motivation to work in a new job and is in trouble to work in school and at work normally. About 80% of depressed patients complain of sleep disturbances, especially show symptoms like do not get enough sleep until early in the morning and wake up early or wake up frequently during the night. Many patients show decreased appetite and weight loss too. Some patients show an atypical pattern of increased appetite and prolonged sleep. Anxiety symptoms are common in about 90% of cases, some of them show sexual problem like lower sexual desire. Cognitive impairment symptoms such as loss of concentration can also be seen in many patients.

Then, how should we deal with it?

Firstly, we have to converse perception that depression is not a disease. In some patients are not consider depression as a disease, but if we let these wrong thoughts leave, it can lead to extreme suicide. Therefore, depression should first be recognized as a disease, and early symptoms of depression should be known. Furthermore, there is a rumour that if you are taking medication for a long time, you can get side effects. It is a totally misunderstanding. If you do not take medication regularly, you will not only have a recurrence of depression but also get worse every time you have a recurrence. This is why enough medication is needed after consultation with medical specialist. In fact, Depression is a disease with a high likelihood of recurrence. So if it is not treated early and there is no continuous treatment, it can recur easily. In particular, depression has a recurrence rate of 75% within 5 years, so patients need to actively seek treatment by themselves. Secondly, we need more social interest and support for depression. According to a report about Korean worker’s depression, seven out of ten workers diagnosed with depression were found to be working without rest periods to treat hurt mind and body. Only 31% (23 persons / 74 persons) took sick leave after the diagnosis of depression, and the sick leave period was also short for 8 ~ 9 days. However, in the same way in 7 European countries including France and Italy, 51% of workers took sick leave and even periods of sick leave reached 35.9 days. In addition, many Korean employees are often confined or hiding other reasons when they take sick leave, only 34% (8 persons / 23 people) answered that they revealed they are depressed to reasons for sick leave. A reporter asked why they did not reveal their depression to them, 75% of responders said that if other colleagues know that I am depressed, it will be difficult to work. 63% of those surveyed did not think that other would understand their life even if they spoke about it. 75% of respondents answered "I want to keep it secret because of my personal reasons." (multiple answers). Through this report, we can feel that the atmosphere and conditions of Korean workplace for depression are too uncomfortable and rigid. And what is worse, Recently, the number of patients with depression in Korea has surged, but there are very few measures from the government. Currently, the government is in the process of early detection and counseling of mental patients such as depression patients through 12 mental health promotion centers and 177 basic mental health promotion centers. But, there is no policy on detailed diseases such as depression and the process is conducted by just municipal governments. However, according to a survey by the Kyung-Hyang Newspaper, depression treatment business was not achieved at municipal government neither. Therefore, more social attention and support for depression is needed. Lastly, we must throw away negative awareness of mental illness treatment In Korea, even though it is normal to receive professional treatment if there is a mental problem, but there is a tendency to avoid treatment. In fact, only 22.2% of mental patients in Korea were treated with psychological counseling in illness or counseling, it is left behind to other foreign countries like Canada (46.5%), United States (43.1%) and Belgium (39.5%). Some experts say, "In Korean society, there is a phenomenon that when we receive psychiatric treatment, we are treated as 'psychotic.'. That is the reason why rate of psychiatric treatments is much lower than other foreign countries. " Therefore, we need to eliminate the negative perception of mental illness and psychiatric treatment.

Then, what do we have to do for preventing further damages due to depression. In order to talk about this matter, The Inha Times met Jeong-ae Ko Psychotherapy Ph D who is working at Inha unversity student counseling & gender equality counseling centre now.

The Inha Times (IT) : Depression is spreading rapidly in our society recently. In this situation, if someone around you is depressed, what should you do to help?

Jeong Ae Ko (Ko): The most important thing is we should actively ask them to get proper counseling. There are lots of people who even don't know they are depressed and just treat it as simply helpless feeling around us. If so, encourage them to search the Internet for signs of depression. And if they correspond to some early signs of depression, they should actively seek counseling. In fact, many students who had received counseling in our university counseling centre visited the counseling room by the suggestion of the people around them. Most of the students who came to the counseling room on their own progressed favorably actually. Many counselors are available to help you deal with depression in a number of ways, including counseling, professional testing, and medication. Getting help from these professional counseling rooms is more important than any other ways.

IT : What are some early signs of depression?

Ko: Typical examples are lethargy, avoidance of interpersonal relationships, changes in sleep patterns, and isolation of oneself for a long time. In the case of students, classroom unfairness also appears. In society, however, it regards as simply a matter of laziness. However, this may not be just laziness, but it may be an early sign of depression. Do not ignore the crisis signals from your body and mind. If these symptoms appear, you should be actively consult with experts.

IT: Our society still has a serious negative perception about mental illness, treatment, and counseling. What efforts should be made to eliminate this?

Ko : Like every person has different physical qualities as the speed at which they recover from disease, every person’s temperamental traits are different  person by person. Therefore, some people can be particularly vulnerable to certain events, behaviours, and traumas. It is very dangerous to assert that their will is weak because it can be a personal difference in acceptance of a person's temperament and experienced events. Therefore, those who need counseling and treatment need to be actively involved in treatment and help. It is also necessary to try to change the perception that people who have mental difficulties are stigmatized as mental ills.

IT: What efforts do you think should be made in order to create a healthy society without depression?

Ko : Like loneliness and death come across in life at least once, anyone can experience mental symptoms such as depression in life. Nonetheless, future results are very different depending on the cases of receiving appropriate help and therapeutic intervention in the event of such symptoms or not. Therefore, it is important to seek professional help if you experience difficulties and discomfort in life due to mental symptoms such as depression. Therefore, depression can be thought of as a universal problem that can come to anyone. It is just a problem that can be taken seriously by how long it lasts. Especially if he / she is suffering from depression it is natural to get consulted with a specialist and receive treatment, as if when a person becomes ill in a body, he / she goes to hospital and gets proper treatments. It is important to don't think of yourself as a patient and not to be afraid and to ask the experts for help and counseling carefully. Just as you cannot become an expert in every field, it is natural that people who do not have specialized knowledge of the disease ask for help from experts. It is important to have flexible thinking about this. In addition, there may be people who are suffering from depression or helplessness around you. If that is the case, it is a good idea to invite these people to consult with experts actively. Also, having an "interest" in people around you may be a good preventative measure to prevent damage from depression.

Depression is called a cold of mind among some experts. That is, it means that depression can be easily treated if we detect it in the first stage and that anyone can easily get it like a cold. Depression is a terrible disease that can lead to the extreme situation of suicide. I think that we need to change of recognition about depression and it is also necessary for the society to change into a society where everyone is happy without depression.

박현지  lilylondon97@gmail.com

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