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Depression is a disorder, not a mood swing

By ZHANG ZHOUXIANG | China Daily | Updated: 2023-07-07 06:58


Three days after she attempted suicide and was rushed to hospital, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region-based singer and songwriter Coco Lee died at the age of 48.

Her Sina Weibo account was flooded with tributes and memories after her sister Nancy Lee broke the news of her death on Wednesday night. While Lee is no longer troubled by her depression, the disease continues to torment lives and deserves society's attention.

In December 2020, the National Health Commission said at a news conference that 2.1 percent of Chinese residents were depressed while 4.98 percent had anxiety issues; in a population of 1.4 billion, that means 85 million people with anxiety.

A research team from Peking University Sixth Hospital published an essay in The Lancet Psychiatry in September 2021 saying that of the 1,007 people surveyed with depressive disorder, only 84, or 9.5 percent, had received treatment, while only 12 or 0.5 percent had received ample treatment.

One of the major reasons for this is failure to acknowledge depression as a mental disorder caused by changes in the secretion of hormones such as dopamine and arterenol in the brain. Most people think depression is nothing more than an unhappy mood and don't see the necessity to consult a doctor.

Many avoid consulting professionals also because of the social stigma attached to "mental disorder" that can even lead to discrimination in society. That's why the treatment level of depression is so low.

To prevent others from killing themselves, it is necessary not only to strengthen psychiatry departments at hospitals, but also to raise awareness so that more people realize that depression is a disease and not just a mood swing. That is the first step toward treating it.

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