We can all help by first recognising the symptoms.

April 7th is recognised internationally as World Health Day and this year, the World Health Organisation is shining the spotlight on depression, an affliction that has also been pinpointed as the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.

Armed with a tagline as simple yet powerful as ‘Depression: Let’s Talk’, it is hoping to initiate more conversations about this often concealed mental illness and rightfully so.

Latest figures from the organisation estimates that more than 300 million people live with depression daily – that’s a tragic 18% increase from 2005. Physically fit and able individuals have been known to become completely non-functional in the grips of depression so it’s about time more light is shone on this debilitating condition, first by recognising the symptoms.

The signs

Feeling down from time to time is a normal part but when that escalates into hopelessness and despair, then it’s time to sit up and pay attention. Simply getting through the day can be overwhelming for a sufferer of depression. These are the telltale signs of depression:

Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness: A cloud hangs over you, painting noting but a bleak outlook on everything. You believe nothing will get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve the rut you are in.

Loss of interest in daily activities: Things you once enjoyed doesn’t even remotely intrigue you. You find no joy in former hobbies, pasttimes, social activies, food, even sex.

Appetite or weight changes: Your body knows more than you realise so listen to it. If you experience significant weight loss or weight gain (anything more than 5% of change in weight) is your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right.

Sleep changes: The inability to sleep is a big sign, but so is oversleeping, often to block out thoughts and shut out the world.

Anger or irritability: Agitation, restlessness, violence – these are telltale signs of an imbalanced emotional wellbeing that can lead to or are clues of depression. Everything and everyone gets on your nerves.

Loss of energy: Along with the loss of joy in doing things you once enjoyed, your body also ‘rejects’ it by feeling sluggish and physicaly drained. Small tasks prove exhausting and what you once can do in a heartbeat takes a whole to complete.

Self-loathing: Then comes the onset of the feeling of worthlessness and guilt. Mistakes are amplified and fault is unwarrantedly perceived.

Reckless behaviour: Looking for an escape, you may turn to substances like alcohol and drugs, or even behaviourial escapist engagements like compulsive gambling, reckless driving or dangerous sports.

Concentration problems: As your psyche falls apart, you find it harder and harder to focus, make decisions or remember things.

Unexplained aches and pains: Your body suffers from this overall bad treatment and retaliates with headaches, back pains, aching muscles and stomach pains.

What you can do

If you feel the beginnings of depression creeping in, here are some little things you can do to feel better:

Reach out to other people because isolation fuels depression and amplifies negativity. Speaking to family and friends can be of tremendous help.

Getting up and moving is one of the surest way to lift moods, even if only slightly. Getting out of bed may seem like the most daunting thing in the world when you’re depressed but regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication in countering the symptoms of depression. Start small by taking a short walk.

Eating a mood-boosting wholesome diet keeps the body healthy so you feel good. It also helps to reduce foods that can adversely affect your mood like caffeine, alcohol, transfats, sugar and refined carbs which will worsen your feeling of being down.

Find ways to engage with the world to take your mind off the negativity is too underrated. Go outdoors even when you least feel like it, do something to keep yourself busty and you’ll be surprised by how much little things can lift your moods.

Most importantly, never underestimate the severity of your state and don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you need to.