in Traditional Medicine
By Naail Ali Published on 27/08/2019

Depression in the 20th century Maldives

Early societies in the Maldives gave an importance to Mental health, not seen in the Maldives these days.
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Naail Ali

Published on: 27/08/2019

Mental Health Depression
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In a society with a taboo outlook on mental illnesses it is quite interesting to see how one of the most controversial illness, “depression” was defined in the early Maldivian medicinal scene. It almost feels unreal the fact that, early societies gave an importance not seen in the Maldives these days. The differences in how modern science defines this illness and alternative medicine practitioner and Author of the book “Dhivehi Beys very kamah hadhiya eh” Abdulla Majeedh 
Maahir puts it calls for discussions on how our society has evolved. 
If we look at what depression is from a perspective of modern science, it is a physical difference in the necessary hormones of a body causing chemical instability within the patient. Usually 
associated with hormones Dopamine and Serotonin. The imbalance results in a weakened state of anti-euphoria which effects the thought process as well as the behavior of patients. 
Anti-depressants like Surmontil are usually prescribed for the disease as well as therapeutic ventures. 
Mr. Majeed however describes depression in a more poetic essence. It is written that depression is best described with the word melancholy. Where the origin of the word “Melan” is black and “Choly” is a drape.Putting the definition in what is known to early scholars as a black drape that covers the patient’s  thoughts producing malice and causing him/her extreme distress.  

Depression was treated in many different ways in the 20th century. The cures ranging from Magical Mantras to medicinal herbs. Of which the most notable is the Mexican poppy. A distant cousin to the opium poppy familiar to most people. The leaves from the plant were crushed and cooked to make a yellowish paste which was than made into two pellets. One was taken with either rainwater or warm milk while the other was rubbed across the head. While the treatment seems skeptical it does come with some very real scientific justifications as Mexican poppy is known to be a mild pain killer with therapeutic properties, with a composition containing 
hallucinogenic substances like Sanguinarine. So, the next time you feel on the down low we recommend you find some “Zahgoom” as we called it back in the day.

However, something both the early scriptures and modern science agree on is that the most crucial step is to accept that the illness is real. While it is seen under a lens of much controversy it seems that the past and the present both agree treatment begins with taking the first step.  

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