October is Depression Awareness Month: Educate, Elevate and Participate
Despite how it might feel to those experiencing it, there’s no shame in suffering from depression. It is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that in 2016, more than 16 million adults dealt with a depressive episode. Battling the symptoms of depression is, no doubt, difficult, but it’s important that people understand they’re not alone.
One effective method of helping people cope with these issues to educate, elevate and participate in Depression Awareness Month, throughout all of October.
“This is what depression does: it lies to you,” writes New York Times contributor Jennifer Finney Boylan. “At this point in my life, I’m stronger than it is. But if I were younger – or the voice were louder – things might be different.”
In a year with two high-profile suicides, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, conversations about depression and its consequences have become more mainstream. Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reportsthat while more men died from suicide in 2016, the rate of suicide among women has doubled since 2000.
What are Factors or Causes of Depression?
Researchers have so far been unable to pinpoint exactly why some people deal with more intense levels of depression than others do. They do believe there are some key factors, though, and these can include some of the following:
- Intense stress, such as the loss of a loved one, divorce and even traumatic events such as injury from a car crash or returning from a war zone, can cause a person to develop serious depression
- Family history is another key factor. Children of parents suffering from depression tend to struggle in a number of ways and are more likely to deal with depression later in their lives
- Neurological makeup is yet another reason some people are more likely to experience depression than others. There’s evidence that the brains of people living with depression function differently than those without the disorder
What are the Symptoms of Depression?
Regardless of the cause, living with depression is incredibly difficult and painful. For many people, the disorder becomes a destructive mental and physical cycle. The symptoms of depression can include:
- Excessive feelings of worthlessness and guilt, sadness and hopelessness
- The loss of interest in activities or hobbies once enjoyed
- Difficulty making even simple decisions
- Restlessness and insomnia
- Fatigue and excessive sleeping
- Weight loss and weight gain
- Suicidal thoughts or a suicide attempt
Depression also increases a person’s risk of a dual diagnosis, sometimes called co-occurring disorders, which is mental illness coupled with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. It’s entirely understandable why a person suffering from untreated or undiagnosed depression would turn to intoxicative substances. It’s not a weakness.
In fact, it’s a subconscious awareness that the body and mind need to be medicated, though alcohol and drug abuse will only worsen the symptoms of depression.
Treatment for people with a dual diagnosis requires both issues be addressed at the same time.
Counseling and therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), have shown to be extremely effective in the treatment of addiction and depression.
Depression Awareness Month also includes Mental Illness Week and National Depression Screening Day, which offer yet more resources for everyone to educate, elevate and participate in reducing the stigma and increasing support for people struggling with mental illness.
Depression and Suicide Resources:
National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
If depression is leading to suicidal thoughts, call the National Hopeline to connect with a depression treatment center in your area.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
This national hotline is a valuable resource for people whose depression has escalated to suicidal or other harmful thoughts. The network of crisis centers provide emotional support and guidance to people in distress.