Let’s start by saying that Depression is a real issue that needs to be addressed and better understood so that those suffering can receive proper treatment.
Throughout our lives, we will experience moments of sadness, grief, feeling ‘down and out’. For some, these are mere speed bumps in the road of life. Sometimes they are a little irritating to get over, but you do, and keep trucking on without difficulty. For others, the ability to bounce back does not come as easily and they find themselves spending more time suffering with these negative emotions. When these feeling occur for an extended period of time and cause impact on your daily life, you may be experiencing symptoms of depression.
Many people act as though depression (or any mental illness for that matter) is a “don’t ask, don’t tell” issue. We don’t talk about it, we don’t educate on it. We stuff these emotional and psychological responses and feelings into the unused coat closet, and leave them there. Pretending as though they don’t exist.
This is not okay.
Depression affects at least 1 in 10 Americans, and over 80% of those who knowingly have depression are not receiving any specific treatment. That is not to even include the immense amount of folks who have not reported or who have no official diagnosis. Imagine the numbers then! And these statistics continue to rise each year.
We have to do something!
We can start by realizing that mental illness is not out of the ordinary and should not hold a negative stigma. If your heart and lungs can be sick, so can your brain. We also need to realize that depression, just like physical illnesses need to be addressed and treated. Your mental health is highly intertwined with your physical health, and those who suffer from depression are more likely to also be obese, have heart disease, stroke, or sleep disorders. Depression can lead to these health conditions or these health conditions can lead someone to suffer from depression. It can be a vicious cycle.
We also need to take time to educate ourselves on what to look for when it comes to mental illness. How many times have you seen someone with a cough and figured they had a cold? Someone had a fever and you knew they had an infection? The symptoms of depression should also be so easily recognized. So, I wanted to take time to share some symptoms of depression. Maybe you, yourself, suffer from these. Maybe you know someone who does.
- Suicidal Thoughts or Thoughts of Death
- Tearful, Excessive or Extended Sadness
- Sleep Disturbances-Insomnia or Hypersomnia
- Eating Disturbances-Overeating or Undereating
- Loss of Interest in Activities
- Difficulty Thinking, Concentrating, or Making Decisions
- Worthlessness, Low Self-Esteem
- Anger, Irritability, Easily Agitated
- Unexplained Physical Complaints Such as Headaches, Stomach Pain, Chronic Aches
Not only do we need to be aware of what symptoms can be red flags, but we also need to be willing to help those (or possibly ourselves) when these symptoms arise. Lend a helping hand, a listening ear, a soft shoulder to cry on. Do not dismiss these feelings. They should be taken seriously. Also realize that sometimes these symptoms are hidden under the surface. A fake smile, a muttered “I’m fine”, forming the facade for a crumbling soul. Open your eyes to more than what is on the surface. Be insightful of what is easily present and what isn’t.
Then, find help. Maybe it is from talk therapy or a support group. Possibly trying other forms of therapeutic treatment such as art, music, or dance therapy. Find an activity that you enjoy and make time for it. You deserve it. Get in touch with your physician and speak with them about it. Sometimes these issues can be resolved with nonpharmacological methods, however sometimes medications may be needed (either temporarily or long term).
So the next time you come across someone who needs to open up. Notice it. Foster it. Try to understand. Pay attention and help guide them on their road to wellness. You should never underestimate how much your kind words and attention to the [very real] issue may help save them. It is vital that they know they aren’t alone in this.