Mental illness, what is depression?

A woman with a distant look in her eyes

Mental illness, what is depression?

Just recently, Kenyans lost a great comedian to alleged case of depression. This was a huge blow to the entertainment industry as no one was able to save him. This is not an isolated case, a lot of young people have been crying for help through the various social media pages, which most people find to be ridiculous. So are these cry for help genuine or it’s just attention-seeking.

Everybody has been talking about depression so what is depression? Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.

Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and home.

Depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year. And one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life. Depression can strike at any time, but on average, first appears during the late teens to mid-20s.

Symptoms of depression

Depression can vary from mild to severe cases. Signs and symptoms of depression include; feeling sad, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, change in appetite- leading to loss or gain of weight, increased levels of fatigue, feeling worthless, having trouble sleeping, harbouring suicidal thoughts and lack of concentration in anything that you set out to do.

One important thing to note is that for one to be diagnosed for depression, the symptoms must have lasted for 2 weeks or more.

Risk factors of depression

  • Biochemistry: Differences in certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression.
  • Genetics: Depression can run in families. For example, if one identical twin has depression, the other has a 70 percent chance of having the illness sometime in life.
  • Personality: People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
  • Environmental factors: Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty may make some people more vulnerable to depression.


The good news is that depression can be treated and the person to back to their normal self. The treatment can be done using any of these two methods;

Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” is sometimes used alone for treatment of mild depression; for moderate to severe depression, psychotherapy is often used in along with antidepressant medications.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is effective in treating depression. CBT is a form of therapy focused on the present and problem-solving. CBT helps a person to recognize distorted thinking and then change behaviours and thinking.

Medication: Brain chemistry may contribute to an individual’s depression and may factor into their treatment. For this reason, antidepressants might be prescribed to help modify one’s brain chemistry.

Depending on the severity of the depression, treatment can take a few weeks or much longer. In many cases, significant improvement can be made in 10 to 15 sessions.