October is National Depression Awareness and Education Month. October 11 is National Depression Screening Day. Why is this important? In light of all the recent tragedies in our world and in our country, (natural disasters and the recent shooting in Las Vegas especially), we need to raise awareness of depression, it’s symptoms, it’s effects on a person, a family, a community, and beyond.
Men and women often experience depression differently. Children experience depression differently than both men and women. Therefore, it is important to understand that one person’s experience with depression doesn’t mean it is the only way to experience it. You (or a loved one) might still be experiencing depression without having the same experiences. Furthermore, people often associate depression with suicidal thoughts or actions. This is frequently not the case. Many individuals with depression do NOT experience suicidal thoughts.
Some signs of depression include, but are not limited to:
– Lack of energy or motivation
– Increased or decreased appetite
– Increased eating even though appetite hasn’t changed
– Feeling sad most of the time
– Separation anxiety (in kids)
– Grades in school going down (kids)
– Behavioral problems in school or home (kids)
– Episodes of crying
– Not enjoying things you used to enjoy
– Changes in sleep pattern
– Decreased ability to concentrate
– Decrease in ability to remember things
– Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
– Thoughts of suicide (including researching methods)
If you believe you are suffering from the effects of depression, there are some screening tools you can use at home to determine whether you have depression: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/mental-health-screening-tools and https://adaa.org/iving-with-anxiety/ask-and-learn/screenings/screening-depression are two good websites with screening tools. The important thing is to seek help from a professional if you are having suicidal thoughts. If not, there are a ton of resources on the internet to help you work through your depression. If these techniques do not work after a period of time, it is again important to seek help. Sometimes it takes the use of medication to get the boost you need to get out of depression. Taking medication does not mean you are weak, any more than taking insulin or aspirin mean you are weak. Furthermore, just because you take medication for depression doesn’t mean you have to take it forever. Some people need it only temporarily.
Probably the number one most important thing I want you to take away from this is the importance of support. Research has shown again and again that people generally do much better (at everything) when they have support. Have you noticed that you will go to the gym more consistently if you have a partner going? Have you noticed that you’ll eat healthier if your family is also? There is a reason support groups and groups like AA have been around for ages. Support helps people get through the very tough times. It is ok to ask for help. In fact, it is a sign of strength.
Change takes time. Nothing we do works perfectly the first time. Think about learning to walk, or talk. Think about learning math or spelling. Think about the sports you played growing up or the music lessons you took. None of these were made perfect over night. They took a great deal of patience and practice. If it is something we enjoy, we tend to have patience and keep at it. However, when depression saps your enjoyment and motivation, it is very hard to stick with something. That is why changing your thoughts is extremely important to being successful. The more you tell yourself “I wish I didn’t get off the couch. I want to be back home” the less beneficial that walk will be for you. This is the premise of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – the therapist will help you with your thoughts to change your behaviors and thus change your mood. Again, this is a process that takes time.
This blog shared a great deal of what is important to help you through depression and when it may be necessary to seek help (when the skills aren’t working and when you are having suicidal thoughts). No matter who you are, depression does not discriminate. Anyone can develop depression. With October being Depression Awareness and Education month, I challenge you to go out and do some advocacy about depression. Put up fliers, go to www.change.org, or www.nami.org for some great resources to help you spread awareness. What will you do? Share your comments below! As always, I look forward to hearing your responses and you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 860-501-9767 or 941-642-4807.