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Apr 6, 2017

Healthy Living Talks Depression

The World Health Organization estimates that three hundred million people worldwide live with this disease. In Belize, there are an estimated fifteen thousand cases – that have been reported. Yet, we don’t talk about this disease very much and many are still unaware of the true causes of this sometimes debilitating illness. That’s why this year in commemoration of World Health Day, this disease is being drawn into focus under the theme: Let’s Talk Depression and that’s exactly what we’re doing in tonight’s Healthy Living.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Let’s talk depression! That’s what the World Health Organization and health officials across the globe are hoping to get people to do. Not just people living with the disease, but all of us. So that more people with depression can seek out and get help. Now, this is not a novel effort but one that health officials, like Nurse Eleanor Bennett of the Mental Health Unit in Belize, have identified must be a continuous process.


Eleanor Bennett

Nurse Eleanor Bennett, Mental Health Unit

“Here in Belize and a lot of places in the world, people don’t talk about mental health. It’s something we sweep under the rug, it’s very easy for us to run to the doctor if we have a broken leg and a broken arm but we have broken thought, disturbed sleep or we’re thinking things that are negative. We don’t run to the doctor. We need to start to talk about that. We need to normalize talking about mental health issues. It affects so many people in the world.”


Depression is an illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks. It can be mild, moderate or severe but the most important thing to note is that it is treatable. Well-known educator and singer, Nelita Castillo, knows all too well how much this disease can debilitate the simplest of joys in life; but, luckily twenty-five years ago she was diagnosed and began to treat the disease.


Nelita Castillo

Nelita Castillo, Living with Depression

“It started out with me losing interest in everything.  Not wanting to work and an extreme fatigue. And the sort of fatigue where you sleep but you don’t rest.  The mind can’t shut down, the mind is giving you all sorts of unfortunate and negative messages; just everything bad, bad. You are a bad person, you’re sad for no reason, or maybe you have a reason but you blow it out of proportion. I dealt with over a couple of months and I guess I’m very good about like if I’m feeling bad, I’m not going to take it out on you so my treatment of others remained the same. So they wouldn’t have known unless I said something. It just gets worse and worse and worse and then finally you get so mentally exhausted that you can’t function. And that’s what happened. I went into my kitchen and melted I just melted into a heap of tears. I called my brother and he came and I have to go get someone for you.”


Her brother returned with a psychiatrist and until then Nelita was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and began her treatment. Twenty-five years ago, there was a stigma about seeing a mental health professional but Nelita says no one could stop her from trying to feel better.


Nelita Castillo

“People said why are you going? Put those things behind you. But that’s exactly why I’m going to the psychiatrist because I can’t put those things – whatever things behind me. All of us whether we want to admit it or not have issues.  I traveled and did what I wanted to do, but why this sadness. But that’s what the psychiatrist helps you with – it’s perceptions not realities. It’s things that you experience in your childhood that maybe your take on it was not what people were doing. What I learned a) nobody did me anything; nobody to hurt or humiliate me it was just my sensitivity wrapped up with everything that occurred and that’s wrapped up with everything else   I remember her telling me this will not go away this is obviously something chemical in your system but I’m going to teach you how to live with, how to deal with it, how to look for your triggers and what behaviors are good and one of the most important things is to keep yourself occupied.  You can live a full productive life and be content. Watch the birds the sea and enjoy it because that’s what depression does. It saps your desire for doing anything. Your enjoyment of it – it sucks the life out of you and if you are treated then…you can be happy, you can be content, you can work, you can play you can socialize. Cause that’s another thing you want to withdraw and that’s the worse things for you because of its when you are alone that those messages start to come back I call them the “jackals of the mind” like tigers going “Grr Grr Grr” and you don’t have to.”


Nelita says over the years she’s learned to differentiate between perceptions and reality. She avoids environments that she knows may trigger her depression. She openly shares her story with others as she wants them to know that you can live a full productive life and be content. She and Nurse Bennett agree that sharing her story and those of others can literally save lives.


Nurse Eleanor Bennett

“We want people to start the talk. The stigma is so bad here in Belize. In our little society where everybody knows each other however the only way people can stop suffering in silence is to talk about it. I will even go out on a limb to say many of the social issues we have can be tied back to mental health issues and but people don’t talk and I know people know this.  If you make it normal for you, then other people is going to make it normal for them and so on and so on. We hope to create a situation where its spreads. Just talk about what’s going on.”


Nelita Castillo

“What was it like to finally be diagnosed with depression. A great sense of relief. A great sense of relief. I can’t imagine someone not knowing and feeling these especially if I wasn’t married I didn’t have children to attend to but it is terrifying! And you have children to attend to and you have to feed them and you don’t want to get out of bed! People need to know it’s not their fault. There’s something you can do. There’s help to be had out there and especially now, especially now.”


The Ministry of Health offers free counseling with trained professionals in every district. You simply have to visit your local public clinic or in Belize City the Cleopatra White or Port Loyola Clinics.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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