I recently saw Saba Hameed break down in tears on a TV show while speaking of the problems in Pakistan. Many of us must have raised our eyebrows thinking about why she was crying over these matters. I read one comment on Facebook stating she was depressed with just a hint of disdain, as though being depressed was a self inflicted state.

Depression in Pakistan is not taken seriously. If you tell someone you are depressed when it appears as though you have everything in your life, the most common reaction is: “Na shukri na karo.”

Yes, everything is going great but don’t many of us occasionally feel low, tired and lacking the energy to do anything? We immediately start experiencing guilt if we express this. But that is where we are wrong. Depression is a medical illness, not a sign of weakness or ungratefulness. And it’s treatable.

Depression is different from feeling sad now and then as it takes over our daily lives paralyzing us from leading a normal life. It is combined with constantly feeling helpless and worthless, and finding no joy in living.

There doesn’t have to be a major reason like abuse, or the loss of a loved one or a financial crisis for one to feel depressed. The current state of our country is enough to cause depression. When our basic rights and needs of living are abused, the stress, frustration and feeling of helplessness at the hands of our corrupt system, it is very easy to feel depressed. Especially when the problems seem overwhelming and permanent.

Social media also causes anxiety. Facebook, I feel, has a major contribution. It presents the happy side of everyone’s life and one unconsciously starts comparing it with their own life without deliberation.

It is very important to recognize the signs of depression and treat them accordingly. Feeling high and low in our lives is normal, but if emptiness and despair won’t go away, the cause may be chronic depression.

A few symptoms are common like loss of appetite, sleep changes, and a lack of interest in daily activities. There are also biological, psychological and social factors that lead to depression. Our lifestyle choices, relationships, and coping skills matter just as much if not more so than genetics. However, there are certain risk factors that make us more vulnerable.

It is very important to understand why we suffer from depression to successfully overcome it. Sometimes there are obvious reasons like having an unsatisfying job or a bad marriage. In such cases, taking an anti depressant is not the solution but trying to change the dynamics of such problems can help us. Like changing the job or ending a marriage that makes us feel hopeless and depressed all the time.

In other cases, we might feel depressed but cannot pinpoint a specific reason. It is important to take this seriously also, as there might be reasons that even we are not aware of.

How one can overcome depression varies from person to person. Medication is required in a few cases but anti-depressants can only uplift our mood temporarily; getting to the root cause of depression is a must. I believe that support from friends and family, lifestyle changes and professional help can successfully take us onto the road to recovery.

In Pakistan, we normally turn to a psychiatrist or psychologist but talking to a counsellor is more effective in the case of depression. A counsellor helps the person to come out of depression on his/ her own and gives them the confidence that they have self-treated themselves. Being new to the field of counselling myself, I feel that talking out loud about our problems is perhaps one of the best ways to treat such illnesses.

Counseling as a field has just recently started picking pace in this country, and slowly the awareness is emerging that taking anti depressants in not the solution alone. They can help relieve the symptoms of depression in some people, but they aren’t a cure and have their own side effects.

We need to treat depression like any other physical illness with the course of treatment depending on the severity of the situation. The key to coming out of depression is to acknowledge it and ask for help. There is absolutely no need to feel shame or guilt.