Who wants to have a lively discussion about depression?  No? This isn’t surprising.  Despite the fact that 1 in every 20 individuals over the age of 12 has experienced depressive symptoms, it is not often a topic of conversation. A survey by the Centers for Disease Control found that while a majority of adults believe there are effective interventions for depression and people are generally caring toward those with mental illness, only 25 percent of people experiencing mental illness reported the same beliefs. This would seem to be a major contributing factor to people not reaching out for help when they believe they might be experiencing something like depression.

The fact is, many of us will experience temporary or fleeting symptoms that could be associated with depression.  These can include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue and feeling "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
  • Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain for which no other cause can be diagnosed.

When these experiences become so pervasive that they interfere with work, family or recreation and they occur for longer than 2 weeks, it might be a sign of clinical depression. The good news is there are a range of interventions that are extraordinarily effective at reducing and/or eliminating depressive symptoms. Research shows that some medications, therapy or a combination of both, can significantly reduce depressive symptoms. 

Lifestyle choices and attitudes have also been shown to help lessen symptoms and be protective against the development of depressive symptoms in the future. These include:

  • Engaging in regular physical activity
  • Fostering a sense of gratitude for things and people in life
  • Engaging in supportive social interactions with friends and family
  • Having a sense of purpose in life
  • Spiritual Involvement
  • Developing a sense of connection with one’s community
  • Engaging in meaningful activities

Of great concern is the association of depressive symptoms and suicide ideation and/or behaviors. Suicide is currently the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the majority of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness, such as depression.  With the availability of effective medications, therapy interventions and lifestyle choices, suicide does not have to be an outcome of one’s experience with depression. 

Depression does not have to be something an individual has to live with or hide from others.  It is everyone’s responsibility to reduce the stigma often felt around the experience of mental illness. Speak up, listen carefully, and spread the facts about depression. 

“Hope inspires the good to reveal itself” - Emily Dickinson

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