Robin Williams in a scene from "One Hour Photo"
MANILA -- Depression is a medical condition that should be taken seriously, a medical expert said.
"Ang depression ay kakaibang emotion, kung saan ang nararamdaman ng isang tao na kalungkutan ay out of control na, at lumalabis na," Dr. Mike Sionzon, a psychiatrist from the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, said in an interview on radio DZMM.
Sionzon's interview comes after news reports confirmed that actor Robin Williams, who died on Monday, hanged himself with a belt in his Northern California home after he had sought treatment for depression, a coroner said based on preliminary findings.
Time is a factor in determining whether a condition can be considered as depression, Sionzon pointed out.
"Ang definition talaga niya ay meron kang nararamdamang sobrang kalungkutan na tumatagal na halos buong araw, at araw-araw sa loob nang at least dalawang linggo," he said.
Sionzon stressed that it is important for friends and relatives to be able to recognize the symptoms of depression in order for them to immediately help the patient.
Some of the core symptoms of depression are changes in sleeping or eating patterns, poor concentration and irritable mood, among others.
"Yung pinakamalala, 'yung nakakaisip palagi na gusto na niya mawala, na mamatay, gusto na magpakamatay," Sionzon added.
After recognizing these symptoms, the next step is for relatives and friends to recognize depression as a medical condition.
Sionzon advised the public against giving the patient a pep talk, which may end up just making it worse, as most patients tend to feel worse after hearing encouraging messages from others.
Instead, the patient should be encouraged to seek professional help.
"Ang iniisip ng mga taong depressed, lahat negatibo, kaya minsan kailangan talaga ng psychotherapy para mabago yung mga iniisip niya," Sionzon explained.
Depression can also run in the family, he noted. "Yung depression, ihahalintulad natin siya sa blood pressure. Kapag nagbago na 'yung mood mo, ibig sabihin meron nang mga physical na pagbabago, particularly sa brain, na minsan, kahit anong tinding psychotherapy na gawin mo, mahirap i-reverse. Lalo na 'yung mga tao na meron silang family history," the doctor added.
According to Sionzon, depression is under-diagnosed in the Philippines, especially since most people still think that psychiatry is only for those who are crazy or mentally ill.
"Ang psychiatry ay hindi lang para sa mga baliw," he stressed.