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Know the red flags of depression


Following the deaths of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade in the US, a health official has urged the public to seek professional intervention for people who have manifested signs of depression, a mental disorder considered as one of the common causes of suicide.

Dr. Herminigildo Valle, undersecretary of the Department of Health (DoH), said seeking professional help and knowing the warning of signs of depression are among the best ways to prevent suicide cases.

“Warning signs include withdrawing from their usual activities, loss of interest in pleasurable things one used to do; preferring isolation o nagkukulong sa kuwarto; trouble in sleeping; lots of purposeless activities, expression of sadness and thoughts of suicide,” Valle said in an interview.

He stressed that when a person has already expressed suicide thoughts, consider it a serious one.

Valle advised those living with depressed persons to remove all possible instruments that they can use in committing suicide and, at the same time, always open a communication line with them.

“We have to have somebody (stay) with those persons all the time. We have to talk to them in a non-judgmental way. You have to point out positive things sa buhay nila,” Valle said.

The health official said it’s difficult to exactly determine the causes of depression that afflicts even the highly successful persons.

“There are risk factors (that may trigger depression), one is a certain chemical in the brain, neurotransmitters that at a certain level, if insufficient, will cause depression,” he said.

Other causes of depression are genetics, environmental, and certain instances in life, he added.

Valle explained that the stigma associated with mental disorder is the reason why people suffering from depression are not seeking professional or medical help, although it’s a treatable disease.

Valle said 80 to 90 percent of patients are responsive to treatment, ranging from medications, psychotherapy, and even electro-convulsive therapy.

Addressing mental health issues, particularly depression, has been a priority of the DoH since last year, according to Valle.

He said the Hopeline project, a 24/7 suicide prevention hotline launched in 2016 by the DoH together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Natasha Goulbourn Foundation, is continuously helping people suffering from depression.

In 2016, Valle said Hopeline received more than 3,400 calls, 25 percent of them are depression cases while others are about relationship issues. In 2017, the number of callers rose to more than 7,000 and 44 percent of them belong to the age group 13 to 29 years old.

The DoH has also launched information campaign in schools, with the help of psychiatric associations and NGOs, to promote depression awareness among high school students. The move is in response to rising number of suicide attempts among young Filipinos.

Citing the Global School-Based Student Health Survey of 2015, Valle said 17 percent of students in the Philippines aged 13 to 15 had attempted suicide, 12 percent had seriously considered attempting suicide and 11 had made plans to commit suicide.

“The number 2 cause of death ng age 15-29 worldwide is suicide and the most common cause is depression,” he noted.

According to WHO report, over 300 million people worldwide are suffering from depression and more than 800,000 die yearly from suicide.

Valle said the DoH is also working to finalize the IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulation) of the Mental Health Bill which was submitted to President Duterte for signing into law.

“I hope this (bill) will increase awareness (on depression),” he added.

Last week, senators called on President Duterte to sign the said bill to make mental health services accessible and affordable to all Filipinos as well as reduce the incidence of suicide.

The Mental Health Bill, which was authored by Senator Riza Hontiveros, passed the Senate in May of 2017; while House of Representatives passed its own version of the measure in 2017. The bill’s final version was ratified by the Senate in February of this year and awaits the President’s signature.

“Let’s have a policy that actually saves lives. So many Filipinos need this measure. So many of our countrymen and women from all walks of life suffer in silence and need our help. It’s about time we answered the call,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III expressed confidence that Duterte would sign the bill into law soon.

Sotto said the bill, once it becomes a law, would benefit poor families who could not afford to pay for mental health services. It is also expected to erase the stigma connected to mental health problems.