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Depression… killing many women silently

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DEPRESSION in homes has become an anathema – a recurrent decimal and a natural phenomenon that can be expressed implicitly; mainly faced by women who are of the vulnerable sex and who may consciously or unconsciously not know that they are depressed.

  These hydra-headed syndromes are prevalent in African homes mainly, with Nigeria as a superlative case study.

  The question is: What can we say is responsible for this silent killer called depression? Does medical exports have cure for this?

Depression is more than just feeling sad. Everyone feels upset or unmotivated from time to time, but depression is more serious. It is a mood disorder characterised by prolonged feelings of sadness and loss of interest in daily activities. When long lasting, coupled with moderate or severe intensity, depression may become a serious health condition.

  It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and function poorly at work, at school and in the family. For married women, balancing their home and formal employment commitments has become a major challenge. At its worst, it can lead to suicide.

  We are not however, ignorant of the fact that depression and its concomitant dimensions like anxiety, stress, child bearing and extended family are part and parcel of family pattern. On the other side of the coin, there may be other prominent or astounding causes that may ignite depression in women like socio-cultural, religious bigotry, economic factors.

  Available findings reveal that about 70.5% of women in African homes face one form of depression or the other and this has taken the lives of scores of women daily.

  According to some psychosocial experts, “Women disadvantaged by poverty are more likely to experience depression than the rest of their counterparts in more developed climes; they are less likely to seek or remain in treatment for depression in traditional mental health settings.

Women living on low incomes have higher prevalence rates of mental health problems. Moreover, being a woman with low socio-economic status is associated with increased risk of depression. Depression is the leading cause of disability among women in the world today; with women having twice the risk of depression as men.

  Naturally, women remained mothers, sisters, daughters and wives and these women generally are playing a significant and important role in both societal phase and home affairs. Apart from that, throughout Nigerian history, women stood as sine qua non to the household incomes that are generated from obvious works like small business crafts, house to house commercial exchanges and/or bilateral agreement.

Medical experts may not have an appropriate therapy for this scourge. What can then be done to remedy this ugly situation fast creeping into our homes?

  Mrs. Chinyere Orji, a doctorate degree student at Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, opined that women are more likely to be depressed than men as she gave the causes of the disease to be unequal power and status, work overload and sexual or physical abuse, among others. 

  In her words, “Depression can occur in both genders including children; especially in this our depressive economic conditions but the hardest hit are women. Women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression and the cause can be attributed to the following:

  “Unequal power and status: Women are more likely than men to live in poverty, causing concerns such as uncertainly about the future and decreased access to community and health care resources. These issues can cause feelings of negativity, low self-esteem and lack of control, lower life standard.

  “Work overload: Often, women work outside the home and still handle home responsibilities. Many women deal with the challenges of single parenthood, such as working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Also, women may be caring for their children while also caring for sick or older family members.

  Sexual or physical abuse: Women who were emotionally, physically or sexually abused as children or adults are more likely to experience depression at some point in their lives than those who weren’t abused. Women are more likely than men to experience sexual abuse. Other secondary issues that face women in most homes are: anxiety, eating disorders, drug or alcohol misuse, insomnia, among others”.

  According to Mrs. Nnenna Nwakamma, a teacher with a private school in Port Harcourt, “husbands should be more caring and loving to their wives especially when the woman is suffering. Vital signs to watch out when a woman begins to behave unusual are: on-going feelings of sadness, guilt or hopelessness, loss of interest in things once enjoyed, significant changes in sleep pattern such as trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much,fatigue or unexplained pain or other physical symptoms without an apparent cause, problems concentrating or remembering things, changes in appetite leading to significant weight loss or weight gain, physical aches and pains ,feeling as though life isn’t worth living or having thoughts of suicide .

  These signs could be occasioned by anxiety and stress, pressure to succeed both at home and at work, coupled with the obstacle of lower pay is often likely to have a negative impact on mental health.

  “In Nigeria, women disproportionately bear the burden of mental illness. Again, it’s not only the most common women’s mental health problem but may be more persistent in women than men”.

  For Mrs. Chioma Maduako, a teacher in Venerable Thompson Okujagu Memorial School (V.T.O.M.S.) Rumuolumeni, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, “one of the causes of depression is lack of attention, lack of self-esteem occasioned by inferiority complex.  

When some women are in the midst of other women who have attained a certain level, they feel inferior; they feel they have not gotten to that height and they begin to feel depressed. They don’t want to associate anymore with those kinds of persons. Again some women feel depressed when they don’t feel fulfilled.

Probably  at that moment, there is a goal or mark which she has set for herself but then, she sees herself as having fallen below her expectations and maybe there is no way to get to that height and in most cases, you see them feeling aggressive and hostile.

At that point, it is difficult for them to help themselves unless by the grace of God. Making it complicated is that most of the women who suffer depression don’t even know that they have the illness unless someone observes and tell them that they are behaving this way or that way. Those women, who are enlightened or exposed easily, notice they are behaving funny, look inwardly in themselves and find alternative solutions.

  “Another cause of depression could be attributed to early marriage. Then lack of finance which is the chief cause as virtually everything a woman does in the home require money to properly function.

A woman needs money to take care of her children, herself, manage the home and all of that. It is depressing for a woman to see that her children are not being properly taken care of and cannot afford to go to school; especially when they look at their neighbors’ children who are living well, they feel bad or depressed.

  “As a matter of fact, I have seen a woman run mad as things were so bad for her and her husband and she couldn’t bear the burden any longer. She got depressed which generated to madness. No matter how bad the depressed woman can be, they can still be provided with assistant to recover.”

  Mrs. Chinyere Orji offered that, “Although depression might seem overwhelming, there’s effective treatment. Even severe depression often can be successfully treated. Seek help if you have any of the aforementioned signs and symptoms of depression I gave earlier”

 Mrs. Chioma Maduako proffered that “there are effective psychological and pharmacological treatments for depression which are available, it behooves on the husband of the victim to access them for his wife. Finally, exercise programmes for women have proven to be effective in depression prevention”. 

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