Tell your heart to beat again; because this life is worth fighting for and there are people worth fighting for.
On a bright Saturday morning, more than a hundred people showed up for RELATE Malaysia’s talk on the basics of depression. This addition is one of the many of the series of free talks organized by the ADUN’s office of Subang Jaya, in working towards having a less reserved attitude towards mental health issues. The speaker, Dr.Chua Sook Ning – works as a psychotherapist, researcher, and is presently also a lecturer. Further, she is the founder of RELATE Malaysia – an organization which aims to fight the stigma surrounding mental illness and to educate the public on mental health.
Why is our battle against physical illness easier to talk of in comparison to the battle within our minds? We live in a society which struggles with the idea of balance: we either don’t talk about mental health at all or we glorify toting around mental illness as an accessory. Dr.Chua had presented a side-by-side comparison of how prevalent the flu is in comparison to depression. It definitely was eye-opening to find out that depression was more common than the flu, and yet we don’t seek treatment for it as frequent. In accordance to 2012 statistics by HealthLine, over 80% of people who have symptoms of clinical depression are not receiving any specified treatment.
What is the Root of Depression?
In describing depression, these are a few common phrases being used:
“It creeps over your world and all of a sudden you lose hope”
“You’ll just lay on the bed, and you won’t be able to do or feel anything”
“I don’t like myself, and I wonder what am I doing here”
Dr.Chua had hit the nail on the head in really walking us through on how we all have a running commentary within our own mind: except that with depression it is a commentary on how incapable we are, lacking of purpose, or plain restlessness. Of course, everyone’s struggle with depression is different – for some it may physically show in terms of tiredness or a drastic change in mood, while some may be ‘better’ at concealing their emotions due to the differing levels of severity. Generally, depression can be described as being in prolonged sadness, or having a loss of interest or pleasure that can be accompanied by a toll taken on one’s physical health.
Contrary to popular belief held by some people with extremist views of religion, having mental health issues may not necessarily only stem from an environment of spiritual disturbance. There is a likelihood that having strong negative emotions can also be due to genetics, childhood experiences, different thinking styles, and biology. About 37% of risk of developing depression is due to genetic factors – however it is not a consequence of one particular depression gene, but instead a combination. In accordance to a study led by King’s College London, findings have showed that chromosome 3p25-26 may be strongly linked to this condition, and any one of the 40 genes in this chromosome could be the probable cause of depression.
About 63% of the risk of developing depression is due to environmental factors. A child who watches a depressed parent or sibling may not think it is unusual for them to act the way they do, and may involuntarily mimic them under certain conditions. Stress can be another factor which contributes to depression, and it can additionally bring other physical and psychological consequences as well.
How many times have we heard this sentence: “I’m not going to care about people because people hurt me”? 44% of depressive episodes are triggered by interpersonal loss; and this is divided into self-initiated loss and interpersonal rejection.
“There is no health without mental health”
Depression is the 5th leading cause of burden of disease in Malaysia. It is estimated that approximately 4 out of every 10 Malaysians will fall victim to some form of mental health issue in the course of their lives, and the numbers will continue to rise if we don’t do anything about it.
Treatment options for depression are usually psychotherapy, medication – or both. A group of researchers lead by Boadie W. Dunlop, M.D., M.S., looked at whether a person’s preference for psychotherapy (cognitive behavioural therapy in this study) or antidepressant medication affected the outcome of treatment. Over the course of 12 weeks, patients treated with their non–preferred approach did equally as well as those treated with their preferred approach. However, people treated with their preferred approach were more motivated to complete their treatment. The patients’ differing brain states would determine their ability to benefit from the treatment mechanisms.
A survey was conducted live during Saturday’s talk: asking the audience what they would do if they themselves or a loved one is depressed. From the survey, the results showed that people were more reluctant to seek help for themselves – but they would gladly persuade their loved ones to do so. Why don’t we love ourselves the way we love others?
Be a friend. Not a therapist.
Since I became more open with people, I started having this habit of asking friends this simple question: “How are you?”. I was glad when Dr.Chua affirmed this approach – for although it may seem like a small gesture, it does have a big effect. Take a moment to temporarily enter the other person’s world and listen to understand – not necessarily to solve. I’ve personally felt touched when someone remembers little details about me, or topics I have spoken passionately about. Being thick-skinned is often associated as being a negative term – but do be thick-skinned in asking how someone is doing, because it is important enough to let them know they are cared for.
Life is worth so much more than to just be surviving – we should live life with joy. For those of you who are going through a rough time right now, tell your heart to beat again – keep moving forward and rise. For those of you who are friends of those who are struggling right now, tell your heart to beat again – really try to understand and not be afraid to push down your own walls for both you and them.
Pursuing her law degree, but secretly inspires to also be a writer. Occasionally has deep thoughts about life and conjures emotional proses about them. “She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future” (Proverbs 31:25).
Blog Address: http://buttercupsandfishsticks.blogspot.my
 HealthLine, “Depression Statistics”, 2012, http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic
 Falk W. Lohoff, “Overview of the Genetics of Major Depressive Disorder”, 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3077049/
 King’s College London, “Scientists find genetic link to depression”, 2011, https://www.kcl.ac.uk/newsevents/news/newsrecords/2011/05May/Scientistsfindgeneticlinktodepression.aspx
 HealthLine, “Is Depression Genetic?”, 2016, http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/genetic#overview1
 HealthLine, “Is Depression Genetic?”, ibid.
 Scientific American, “Researchers Take a Closer Look at the Most Common and Powerful Triggers of Depression”, 2013, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/triggers-of-depression/
 MIMS Malaysia, “Top ten Malaysian burden of disease”, 2016, https://today.mims.com/topic/top-ten-malaysian-burden-of-disease
 D.KANYAKUMARI, “Depression: 40% of Malaysians will suffer from mental health issues in their lifetime”, 2017, The Star Online, http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/04/02/malaysians-will-suffer-from-mental-health-issues-in-their-lifetime/
 American Psychiatric Association, “Treating Depression – Psychotherapy or Medication?”, 2017, https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/apa-blog/2017/04/treating-depression-psychotherapy-or-medication