Thursday, June 20

Public awareness of depression, suicide still low — MHAS chairman

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KUCHING: The actions of the Instagram followers who had voted ‘D’, or ‘Death’ in a poll run by the teenager who ended her life Monday, shows that the level of public awareness about depression and suicidal thoughts is still very shallow and that the subject is not taken seriously.

Mental Health Association Sarawak (MHAS) chairman Dr Ismail Drahman opined that had those who responded to the Instagram post understood the young girl’s message well, the incident might have been preventable.

Dr Ismail Drahman

“Depression is one of the risk factors to suicidal thought or act. There is no single cause for depression but often involves the interaction of many diverse biological, psychological and social factors.

“As for this adolescent, most probably it was the interaction between the psychological and social issues in her life. She might not have been able to concentrate on her studies for months prior to the event.

“There must be a change in her behaviour from happy to more socially withdrawn, and not participating in her family events,” he said when contacted by The Borneo Post yesterday to give his insight on the incident.

Dr Ismail added he presumed the girl’s post on Instagram was her last cry for help.

“It was probable she might be searching to resolve her psychological and social issues on her own, by searching on the internet. She was crying for help by posting her distress call on social media.

“I don’t believe that social media caused her to end her life, but she went to a place that was not going to resolve her difficulties.

“We can’t blame social media for it. Social media is a very important means of communication in our present life, if we use it responsibly,” he said.

He also said the word ‘depression’ is used in many different ways.

“People feel sad or blue when bad things happen. However, everyday ‘blues’ or sadness is not a depressive disorder. People with the ‘blues’ may have a short-term depressed mood, but are able to cope and soon recover without treatment.

“The depression we are talking about is major depressive disorder. Major depressive disorder lasts for at least two weeks and affects a person’s ability to carry out their routine activities, work and affects their daily functions,” he explained.

Dr Ismail added that sometimes, people around those who are depressed may think that the person was becoming lazy and was deliberately trying to avoid their responsibilities.

“These symptoms make them distressed in their daily life and interfere in their relationships with family members, friends and anybody around them. Their level of function is also affected – they become slow and may not be able to complete their tasks.

“The symptoms of depression affect their thinking, feeling and behaviour. These are the areas that may be present in a person with depression,” he said.

A person who has major depression varies in severity – from mild, moderate to severe.

Symptoms of major depression include a depressed mood; loss of enjoyment and interest in activities that used to be enjoyable; lack of energy and tiredness; feeling worthless or feeling guilty when they are not really at fault; difficulty in concentrating or making decisions; moving more slowly or sometimes becoming agitated and unable to settle; having sleeping difficulties or sometimes sleeping too much; loss of interest in food or sometimes eating too much; and thinking about death a lot or of suicide.

MHAS Kuching Branch provides counselling and emotional support every Monday and Wednesday (except on public holidays), from 8.30am to 1pm.

To make an appointment for counselling service, call 082-231459 or send a WhatsApp message to 016-8082015 during office hours. They accept any amount of donation for their service.  MHAS Kuching centre is located on 1st Floor, Lot 2991, Wisma Keretapi, Jalan Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce.