World Health Day and Depression: Let’s talk
Deepak (name changed) found out about his HIV infection at a blood donation camp. It devastated him! Not yet out of his post graduate college, he did not have the courage to share the news with his parents, skipped lecturers at college and locked himself at home. He fell hopeless, and was in a state of an emotional upheaval. With much persuasion from his mother, Deepak finally opened up to her. Though it took her some time to accept reality, she never blamed her son, and instead, gave him the assurance that the entire family would support him, and never forsake him. The family got him enrolled for ART, and subsequently he became a part of Vihaan Care and Support (CSC) programme. The CSC provided him with peer support to cope better with his new circumstances. He realized that HIV was no longer a life threatening health issue, but a manageable one. Today, he sees life with much more optimism and fortitude. He has resumed his studies as well, and is closer to his family. He completed his study and is confidently managing a CSC working as a Project Coordinator.
HIV is still considered a jarring enough diagnosis to plunge a patient into depression. The Healthline News in 2014, highlighted, “When depression is paired with HIV, the two diseases can feed off of one another. A 2001 meta-analysis of studies on HIV and depression underscored the severity of the problem. It showed that people with HIV run twice the risk of depression as those who are at-risk for HIV but remain uninfected.”
I talk about this story today, as the central theme of this year’s World Health Day is ‘Depression’. Every day, across India, 360 care and support centres and 32 Help Desks teams consisting of counsellors, peer counsellors and outreach workers from the Vihaan programme, reach out to thousands of individuals living with HIV, many of themselves living with HIV. They encourage and support them to accept life with courage, actively access and retain themselves in care, support and treatment services, and have a positive outlook towards their lives. At Vihaan, we believe mental health is a crucial factor in ensuring the wellbeing of PLHIV. This World Health Day, we pledge to renew our commitment to continue to support PLHIV to improve the quality of their lives by helping them in enhancing their mental health and wellbeing.
The author of this blog is Vipin Joseph, Programme Officer at Vihaan’s Care & Support programme