According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 1 in 10 adults in the United States suffers from some kind of depression. 1 in 10. There’s a stigma surrounding mental illness. Some think depression is not a real illness, that people aren’t sick, they’re just lazy or it’s all in their head. 1 in 10 is a lot of people in this country struggling. You probably know someone or several people with depression. Maybe you have depression.
This is an important topic, one that I’ve wanted to write about for some time. I’ve had difficulty finding the words. But I recently found them, in the form of a blog post written by my husband, Roy Claflin. You can read it all here. It’s long, but well worth the read.
He does an excellent job of explaining what depression is here:
“ In the past, when I’ve told people that I have depression, many of them have immediately asked “what’re you depressed about?” Maybe they wanted the chance to point out that things aren’t so bad, or they might have wanted to try their hand at a little armchair psychology, go a bit deeper. In any case, for the most part, their intentions were probably good, and they can’t help being misinformed.
First off, maybe I can help a bit with the “misinformed” part.
Let’s start with some terminology. Some people feel sad sometimes, usually as a result of something bad happening. Death in the family, bad breakup, loss of a job, accidentally taking a mint-condition action figure out of the package. They may say something like “I’m so depressed,” and they may genuinely need someone to talk to to feel better. These people are entitled to whatever help they think they need, but they don’t really have depression.
When we’re talking about depression, we’re talking about an illness. The American Psychiatric Association puts out a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM for short, that mental health providers use as a reference for diagnosing mental illness. They just released a new edition, the DSM-5, and if you really want to learn all the criteria for diagnosing depression, then by all means pick up a copy and get reading. But you really are better off leaving that for the professionals.
For us lay-people, all we really need to know is that depression is a sickness, something that should be treated by a trained professional. Sometimes, treatment involves talking with a therapist, often a psychologist or clinical social worker (or they may carry other titles). Treatment may also require pharmaceutical intervention, by which I mean medication. Needing medication is NOT a sign of weakness. It’s like having diabetes; some people can treat their particular form of diabetes with diet and exercise, but other people have to take insulin. You’re sick, you take medicine. This doesn’t make you any less of a person. Medication for mental disorders can be prescribed by a general practitioner, but a psychiatrist is specially trained to dispense these sorts of drugs.
How do you know if you have depression? If you’re feeling sad a lot of the time, or if you EVER have thoughts of harming yourself, call someone. If you’re not sure it’s serious, you should still call someone; it won’t hurt to be sure, and it may help just to talk to someone. Who should you call? If you trust your doctor, call their office. If you don’t really have a doctor, I would suggest trying a therapist’s office directly. They can help assess you and put you in touch with other resources in the community, including psychiatry, if you need them. Most take insurance, some charge on a sliding scale based on income. It’s possible there’s no-cost help in your area; check with the health department in your city or county. The important thing is to remember that depression is an illness, and it only gets better if you treat it.
So now we know. Depression is an illness. I cannot stress this enough. Depression does not care how successful you are or how many friends you have, any more than the common cold does. And although heredity seems to play a part, having a family history of mental illness doesn’t guarantee you’ll have depression, and the lack of a family history doesn’t mean you’re immune. Depression, by the way, is just one example of the many mental illnesses a person may be living with.
Getting help is the key. It’s important to realize that if you think you may have depression or anxiety, help is available. Sometimes it takes a while to get in to see someone (more on that later), and sometimes things have to get really, really uncomfortable for you early on in the proceedings, but it can and does get better. Trust me.”
If you think you are depressed, just like with any health problem that is interfering with your ability to live your life, talking to your doctor is the first step. They will be able to discuss what treatment options are best for you. Treatment can range from medication to therapy to complementary practices, like meditation and massage.
Massage for depression?
- In Champaign, IL: Community Elements Crisis Line, 217-359-4141 http://communityelements.org/
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
- The Trevor Project, crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth, 1-866-488-7386 http://www.thetrevorproject.org/