Depression. Odds are if you haven’t experienced depression yourself, you know someone who has. To say it is challenging is a serious understatement. Depression is some serious shit, no two ways about it. In the United States alone more than 18.8 MILLION (yes, million) suffer from depression each year. 18.8 Million. That’s a lot of people in need of help and some serious TLC. It is distressing to me that, with so many people suffering, there is still such a stigma attached to the disorder…still so much ignorance. While the information available online regarding depression is truly exhaustive (go ahead and google it), I have put together a list of 5 things which I feel are essential, 5 things that everyone on the planet should know, about depression.
1) No, They Aren’t Just Feeling
Sorry for Themselves
This belief that so many people seem to hold that people with depression could “get over it if they really wanted to” and are just sitting around “feeling sorry for themselves” really, really, really pisses me off. If you are familiar with depression and do not hold the above belief, then please disregard the following; however, if you are one of said people then this is for you: IT IS A MEDICAL CONDITION THAT REQUIRES MEDICAL TREATMENT. IT IS NOT SELF-PITY. They can no more cure themselves of depression than you can cure yourself of cancer. Would you accuse someone with a brain tumor of “just wanting attention?” I thought not. When someone is suffering from depression they need understanding and compassion, not some blowhard telling them to suck it up and get over it. Have some compassion and show some love. They need it more than you know.
2) Depression Doesn’t Always Look Like Sadness
This one is hard for some people to wrap their heads around but depression doesn’t always mean being sad. It doesn’t always look like someone sulking in the corner crying day in and day out. Depression is not a one-size-fits-all disorder. It expresses in different ways with different people. Some people are anxious, some angry, others self-destructive. It has many different faces and they are as varied as the people who suffer from the disorder. Some of the most common ways that depression expresses itself are:
- self-destructive behavior
- drug and alcohol abuse
Just because someone doesn’t seem outwardly depressed doesn’t mean they aren’t going through hell on the inside. If someone is suffering and they reach out to you, offer them support without judgement.
3) There is More Than One Type of Depression
Just like there are different types of cancer or diabetes, there are different forms of depression too. The types of depression are (click the links for more information):
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Chronic Depression/Dysthymia
- Atypical Depression
- Bipolar Depression/Manic Depression
- Seasonal Depression
- Psychotic Depression
- Postpartum Depression
Each type of depression has its own unique symptoms and treatments. Accurate diagnosis is something that can only be done by a trained medical professional and is crucial to insure the correct treatment is given.
It is important to note that medication alone is rarely a solution. Many patients do well with a combination of medication and different therapies (such as cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy).
4) It’s an Equal Opportunity Illness
Depression can effect anyone at anytime. It doesn’t care if you’re male or female, young or old. It doesn’t care about race or economic background. It strikes children, teens and adults of all ages. If you are alive then you can develop depression. That’s the truth. There it is.
5) Depression Kills
Depression** is the cause for 30,000 suicides in the US each year. I think you should reread that last sentence and think about it for a moment. Let it sink in. That’s a number I’m not OK with…and it doesn’t even touch on attempted suicides. For every 1 suicide there are 11 failed attempts. Allow me to save you the pain of number-crunching: that’s 300,000 attempted suicides each year…attempts that can result in organ damage, brain damage, broken bones…you get the idea. Suicide is the 11th cause of death in the US…and it’s a cause of death that can be prevented with some love, attention and bravery.
The following is a list of some of the warning signs (via WebMD):
- Always talking or thinking about death
- Clinical depression — deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating — that gets worse
- Having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death such as driving fast or running red lights
- Losing interest in things one used to care about
- Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
- Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
- Saying things like “it would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out”
- Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
- Talking about suicide or killing one’s self
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
If you’re even slightly suspicious that someone you know might be contemplating suicide don’t blow it off. Take any threats seriously. Do not leave them alone and seek IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION. CALL 911.
Each and every one of us can do our part to help increase understanding of this illness and wipe out the stigma that is attached to depression. Remember: if someone you know is depressed it is not their fault. Depression is a medical condition that requires love, compassion and patience. You can make a difference. You can help.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide please contact a medical professional IMMEDIATELY or call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
For more information about depression, its symptoms and treatment, check out the following resources: