Health Focus: Mental Health and Depression
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States because it affects an estimated 11 million adults 18 and older.
Of these adults, two-thirds do not actively seek or receive treatment. A lack of mental health treatment can cause severe impairments that interfere with their ability to participate in everyday life.
“I feel like I’m at my lowest,” said Mya, a junior in college in Dallas “It is so hard to explain my depression to people who have never felt what it is like. Depression is not sadness. Sadness is an emotion that you can feel. Depression is more like the absence of emotion. I am numb, I feel nothing. There is no motivation to do anything. My parents just think I am lazy, but really I just feel like a weight is on my entire body holding me down and I can’t get up. I feel helpless. Then I feel nothing again.”
Recognizing Depressive Disorders
Everyone experiences sadness, but these feelings usually have a specific cause and don’t stay around too long. When a person has a depressive disorder, it stops them from living their daily life.
It is a common but serious illness. Some depressive episodes cause people to not bathe, brush their teeth, feed pets, see loved ones, or even feed themselves.
- Symptoms of depression could look like:
- Difficulty falling, staying asleep, or sleeping too much
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Feeling numb or “empty” often
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or hopeless
- Loss of interest in activities you/they once enjoyed
Depression can affect anyone at any time, from children to older adults. It is important to remember that people with depressive disorders do not all experience the same symptoms. The severity of depression will vary depending on the individual. Some people won’t even show obvious symptoms.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you are suffering from depression, know that it is treatable.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the first step is to visit a doctor. The doctor will then perform a medical screening. Once diagnosed, a person will likely be given therapy and/or medication. In the meantime, if you are suffering from depression it is important to participate in activities, spend time with people who are important to you and try to maintain a daily routine — even if that routine is just getting out of bed to brush your teeth every day.
If you have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), they may be able to offer assistance as well.
Helping Loved Ones Affected by Depression
If you know a loved one who is suffering from depression this is what you can do:
- Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
- Be a good listener. (Listen, do not be so quick to offer your opinion)
- Never ignore comments about suicide; report them to your friend’s relative or doctor, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK.
- Invite your friend to do things with you; if they decline, try asking another time.
- Remind your friend that with time and treatment, the depression will lift.