Filipino Canadian Psychiatrist: ‘Depression will be No.1 disease in 21st century’

Community News & Features May 16, 2005 at 2:37 pm

MENTAL health is one of the medical challenges in the 21st Century. In fact, “ in the next 20 years, depression will be the world’s number one disease because lives will become more stressful”. This was the message of Fil-Can Psychiatrist, Dr Maria Dulce Bismonte during her recent seminar on “Depression” as part of the Filipino Center Toronto Wellness Program held in Toronto.

In her talk, Dr Bismonte briefly outlined several causes of depression and the ways to deal with it. It is believed that depression is the most common medical psychiatric problems “unrecognized by many”. Depending on the severity of the situation, the impact of depression may affect the quality of life of the person caused by several events. People who feel depressed usually lack energy, feels hopeless, have decreased appetite, loss of interest in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, have difficulties in sleeping and concentrating. Others feel irritable all the time for no apparent reason. The symptoms also vary from person to person.

In her four years of experience as one of the resident doctors of University of Toronto, Dr Bismonte believes that the causes of depression are varied and usually emanates from what is called “Psychosocial stressors”. This means individuals who had a traumatic experience such as losing a love one, a breakup of relationship, losing a job or a change of home environment would experience stress that eventually causes depression. To cite a few examples, the series of news events that unfolded within three days in Toronto last March clearly illustrated individuals suffering from depression. On a Sunday, a father dropped his 5-year old daughter from an overpass onto the express lanes of the busiest highway in Canada. On Tuesday, a knife-wielding man played early morning matador with police cars at a downtown intersection. A disturbed father who doused himself with gasoline followed this on Wednesday. These highly publicized stories brought into focus the stress of modern life leading to emotional disturbance, fraying of nerves, snapping of minds and loss of self-control. In a follow up phone interview with Dr Bismonte for her personal opinion regarding the said events, Dr Bismonte described the behavior of these men as the result of depression. Meaning, their actions were the result of depression that was not treated at the earliest stage.

People who suffer a Bipolar Affective Disorder or what is commonly known as Manic Depression is caused by genetic factors, Dr Bismonte explained. “All kinds of mental illness is inherited. Their behavior is characterized by psychotic features and is usually present in individuals who are fraudulent, criminals with forensic history or sex maniacs. They are individuals who take enjoyment in going against the law.”
Physical conditions also play a vital role in causing depression. Serious psychological disorders such as anxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and substance abuse often appear along with depression. If anyone feels any of the above symptoms, Dr Bismonte highly suggested seeking medical help. A physical examination including lab test is administered if appropriate medications are required. If a physical cause for the depression is ruled out, a psychological evaluation is done by the physician or by a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Dr Bismonte advises people to lend support to those suffering from depression. “If you feel a friend is depressed, try to invite him or her for walks, outings, to the movies, and other activities. Try to be sympathetic”.

To compliment Dr Bismonte’s talk, she referred to several journals and researches which enumerated key factors to help avoid depression:

• Set realistic goals in light of the depression and assume a reasonable amount of responsibility.

• Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can as you can.

• Try to be with other people and to confide in someone; it is usually better than being alone and secretive.

• Participate in activities that may make you feel better.

• Mild exercise, going to a movie, a ballgame, or participating in religious, social, or other activities may help.

• Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time.

• It is advisable to postpone important decisions until the depression has lifted. Before deciding to make a significant transition-change jobs, get married or divorced-discuss it with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.

• People rarely “snap out of” a depression. But they can feel a little better day-by-day.

• Remember, positive thinking will replace the negative thinking that is part of the depression and will disappear as your depression responds to treatment.

• Let your family and friends help you.

As for Dr Bismonte, the best remedy of all is faith in God. “Pray and everything will take its natural course. Prayer is incomparable if one seeks peace and harmony within oneself,” she said.

Dr. Bismonte is the current president of Filipino Canadian Medical Association. She graduated with a degree of Doctor of Medicine and Surgery at University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines and has been on private practice as a Psychiatrist in Ontario since 1996.