Brown: Get help for depression

January 29, 2014 

Shhhhh! Don’t talk about it. What happened? He is agitated. He has been sleeping all day. She never participates in her favorite sport anymore. I just don’t understand.

Has anyone ever had these thoughts before or said them to a family member or friend? Is it depression? There are a lot of people that experience depression.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is the largest grass-roots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

NAMI reports that mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, gender, race, religion or income. Each year depression affects 5-8 percent of adults in the United States, according to NAMI.

This means that about 25 million Americans will have an episode of major depression this year alone. Without treatment, the frequency and the severity of symptoms tend to increase over time.

According to NAMI, the following are symptoms of depression: persistently sad, feeling empty, appetite changes, not being able to sleep well or sleeping too much, difficulty concentrating or trouble making decisions, feeling agitated or loss of energy, lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyed, feeling worthless, hopelessness or excessive guilt and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

To better understand depression, I contacted Sonja Shavers, a licensed psychotherapist. Shavers said sadness is a normal reaction to a significant or major event, such as a death in the family or a relationship ending.

However, when the feelings persist, then it is called clinical or major depression. The good news is that clinical depression is treatable.

There does not have to be a traumatic event for depression to occur. There is no rhyme or reason to mental illness.

Depression is like any other illness, such as diabetes or heart disease.

There is no single cause of major depression. Shavers said mental and medical health have a correlation.

For example, cancer can affect mental health. Psychological, biological and environmental factors may all contribute to its development.

Scientific research has firmly established that major depression is a biological, medical illness. If left untreated, it could escalate into severe depression.

NAMI reports getting an accurate diagnosis is important. Shavers said the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V) is used to provide a diagnosis of depression.

Treatment can be provided by a psychiatrist or physician and psychologist or licensed therapist.

Shavers said treatment can consist of medication and/or psychotherapy. Each treatment plan is tailored to the individual, because each person responds differently to treatment.

Treatment is important because it works, and continued treatment after getting well can prevent recurrences.

For more information on mental illness, visit NAMI, at www.nami.org or call 800-950-6264.

Another resource includes the National Institute of Mental Illness at www.nimh.nih.gov. A health care provider should be contacted if one is experiencing symptoms of depression, or call 911 or report to the nearest emergency room if experiencing thoughts of suicide.

It’s OK to discuss and seek treatment for mental illness.

Dairlyn Brown is a nurse in Warner Robins.

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