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Depression affects 4-5% of UAE’s population: expert

Expats don’t always have the same support mechanisms here they have back home, expert says

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Dr Tara Wyne, clinical psychologist and clinical director at Lighthouse Arabia in Dubai
Gulf News

Dubai: When it comes to depression, it cares not whether you are a celebrity or not, a fact that was brought home with disturbing impact last week when Britain’s Prince Harry revealed his sense of deep anger and anguish at the death of his mother Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, when he was 15.

The grief that followed, which he could not expend or channel, consequently led him down the path of depression, and this is a telling comment that reiterates the urgent need to accord this mental health issue a greater space in the mainstream social discourse.

A global problem, depression affects more than 300 million people of all ages worldwide, according to a Dubai-based mental health expert.

Dr Tara Wyne, clinical psychologist and clinical director at Lighthouse Arabia in Dubai, said in the UAE, figures suggest that 4-5 per cent of the population are suffering from the condition.

Mild depression affects around 15 per cent of the population, Dr Wyne added.

“Adjustment disorder and relationship issues are also very commonly observed in the UAE. This region has a fast-paced life focused around work and achievement and all the transitions and challenges faced here by individuals can be overwhelming. People don’t necessarily have the same support mechanisms here and with the whole family system in flux, they can feel lost and unsupported,” Dr Wyne said.

On the emotion of grief and it consequences, Dr Wyne said, “Grief following the loss of a loved one can be intense and debilitating. Typically, grief ebbs and flows and [it] is greatly influenced by how attached we were to our loved one and how central they were to our lives,” said Dr Wyne.

A normal part of life, grief however requires us to work through it, she said.

Each person grieves differently and according to Dr Wyne, there are two major styles: intuitive grieving and instrumental grieving.

“Intuitive grieving expresses emotions, names the loss, there is often an outpouring of emotion and sadness, it is characterised by the sharing of feelings and emotions.

“Instrumental grieving is far less focused on emotions and these people don’t outwardly look like they are grieving, they are more focused on action and honouring loved ones through memorials. They are altogether more cognitive about their grief and often look unaffected,” said Dr Wyne. With public figures, Dr Wyne added, they may feel that they have to be more guarded about their expression of grief as they are under constant scrutiny. “With royalty, they are also bound by etiquette and protocol and are often not encouraged to name their issues as they are supposed to be trope models and examples.”

The truth is that people struggle with loss and that it is actually very honourable and dignified to acknowledge difficulty and address it genuinely, said Dr Wyne.

However, the issue of depression is still yoked to stigma. What can be done to free it from social embarrassment?

“I believe that the problem we are facing globally is that we are afraid to be ‘vulnerable’,” said Dr Wyne. “Indeed, it is seen as weakness or failure. If we can change this conception, we can de-stigmatise mental health issues and particularly depression,” she said.

According to Dr Wyne, “It is entirely normal to suffer and struggle and experience hardship. We are meant to pay attention to these experiences and offer ourselves the necessary comfort and soothing.

“Today’s world has no time or space for vulnerability or for the realities of struggle. We are being conditioned to be infallible, invulnerable and constantly succeed and be ‘happy’. When we can all embrace our collective struggle and imperfection and speak openly of it, I believe we can foster great change and support for mental health issues,” she said.

 

Common symptoms of depression

People with depression may typically experience feelings of hopelessness/ helplessness, sadness and anxiety, accompanied by a loss of interest in activities or hobbies that were once enjoyed. Other features of depression are decreased energy, and difficulties with concentrating, regulating sleep and eating patterns.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:

• Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

• Fatigue and decreased energy

• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness

• Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism

• Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

• Irritability, restlessness

• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex

• Overeating or appetite loss

• Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

• Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings

• Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Early detection is vital in order to avert a worsening of symptoms, Dr Wyne said.

- Dr Tara Wyne

 

2017 World Health Organisation report

Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression.

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.

More women are affected by depression than men.

At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.

There are effective treatments for depression.

 

What triggers depression?

The range of factors that can contribute to feeling ‘depressed’ can include current life events or circumstances, not having the necessary coping skills to deal with problems when they occur and also lifestyle factors like diet, exercise and substance abuse.

According to the number, severity and duration of symptoms reported, depression can be categorized as mild moderate or severe. People can experience a single episode or recurrent depression. An important differentiating factor is the presence or absence of episodes of mania.

_ Dr Tara Wyne

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