How Can You Improve Your Mental Health?

By Saurav Hossain 18’

Approximately 20 percent of teenagers experience depression before they reach adulthood, and between 10 to 15 percent suffer from symptoms at any instance. Since depression is a mental illness, it is quite tough to understand. A major source of confusion is the difference between having depression and being depressed. Almost everyone feels depressed from time to time, but clinical depression is different. It is a mental disorder that will not go away even if you wanted it to. Clinical depression lingers for extended periods of time, medically said to be two weeks, and significantly interferes with someone’s ability to work, to play and to love. Some of the symptoms of depression include a loss of interest in things one generally enjoys, the feeling of being excessively worthless or guilty, restlessness, poor concentration, insomnia, hypersomnia, or recurring thoughts of suicides.

Depression is not just a list of behavioral symptoms. It has physical and molecular manifestations like the abnormal transmission of neurotransmitters, depletion of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, and hormone abnormalities. But neuroscientists still do not have a complete picture of what causes depression, it seems to be related to a complex interaction between genes and environment.Because of this it is difficult to tell one who may look fine but is actually struggling with depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NMIT), it takes the average person with a mental illness over ten years to ask for help. Once this initial step that many patients find impossible to take treatments can begin. With the right treatment 70-80% of patients with clinical depression can significantly reduce their symptoms. Treatment can be approached in two ways: Non-Pharmacologic and Pharmacologic.

The Non-Pharmacologic approach uses things other than medication such as: Physical Activity, Healthy Eating Habits, and Psychotherapy. Physical activity or exercise is thought work for many reasons as it increases the release of neurotransmitters and endorphins, raises body temperature and releases muscle tension, but regardless research has revealed that 20 minutes of physical activity, three times a week can help alleviate the symptoms of depression. While a connection between diet and depression exists there are no golden foods, but healthy eating habits have been suggested said by experts to be beneficial. Psychotherapy or talk therapy, much preferred for young patients or patients with milder symptoms, depends heavily on the relationship between the patient and the therapist as well as the clinical skills of the therapist. It can be broken into cognitive behavior therapy, which challenges the negative thoughts about the self and world in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns, and interpersonal therapy, which focuses on the patient’s relationship with family and friends and the way they view themselves.

Sidratul Muntaha ’18 said, “I see mental health as something very important. It is time that the relationship between students, teachers, and guidance counselors change to benefit the entire school and create an environment where we are always helping one another. Better relations will lead to a better culture in Tech, and that can lead to better mental wellbeing.”

When patients have severe depression or mild depression for a extended period of time, then they are prescribed with medication along with therapy, the Pharmacologic approach. The most commonly prescribed medications are antidepressants called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs). In the synaptic cleft, a tiny opening between neurons, serotonin is released and reabsorbed, SSRIs prevent this reabsorption which leaves more serotonin in the synaptic cleft. More uncommon prescriptions include monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), chemicals that inhibit the activity of the monoamine oxidase enzyme family, and tricyclics, which essentially combine preventing the uptake of serotonin and increasing neurotransmission. The most extreme pharmacologic treatment for severe depression is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), where a small and controlled electric current is sent through the brain inducing a brief seizure. The reasoning for its effectiveness is very unclear, although it has been effective in 50% of patients.

If you know someone with depression, gently encouraging them to consider these treatment options can rid them of an irrational stigma. If they feel ashamed point out that depression is a medical condition and that they should not expect themselves to just “get over” it anymore than they could just force themselves to “get over” a broken arm. Simply talking about depression openly can help, it can help erode mental stigma and make it easier for patients to ask for help.

 

Inspirational Quote: “Getting better from depression demands a lifelong commitment. I’ve made that commitment for my life’s sake and for the sake of those who love me.” — Susan Polis Schutz

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