Opinions

Depression Awareness Month

-Candice Smith, contributing writer

Depression is a serious illness! Do I have your attention? Good! Many people believe depression is a phase or just “all in your head!” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the medical definition of depression is “a mood disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty with thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal thoughts or an attempt to commit suicide.”

During the month of October, initiative is taken to raise public awareness of behavioral and mental health issues and working to reduce the stigma. According to Psychology Today, Oct. 10 is National Depression Screening Day, National Bipolar Awareness Day and World Mental Health Day. Oct. 5-11 is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and Oct. 9-15 is OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) Awareness Week.

Depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain. According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 6.7 percent of U.S. adults experience a type of depressive disorder, but many do not seek treatment.

Multiple factors contribute to depression including genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) will show the brain of a patient with depression is different than that of a brain without depression.

People who experience depression do not experience all of the same symptoms. The disorder that is diagnosed can depend on how severe, how frequent and how long the symptoms persist. Signs and symptoms include feelings of emptiness and anxiety, feelings of hopelessness or pessimism, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, feelings of helplessness, irritability, restlessness, lost of interest in activities and hobbies that were once enjoyed, fatigue, decreased energy, loss of sexual desire, difficulty concentrating and remembering details, difficulty making decisions, insomnia, excessive sleeping, overeating, loss of appetite, suicide attempts or thoughts of suicide, aches, cramps and digestive problems.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), depression is the most common mental disorder in the United States. It is important to be aware of signs to watch for incase someone you know is at risk for suicide due to depression. If someone has talked about harming themselves or doesn’t feel the need to live, take it seriously. The person may be at risk and doesn’t need to be left alone. If a person feels trapped and hopeless or helpless, they may feel there is no one they can speak to or who wants to listen. They can get help by calling 1-800-273-TALK to reach a crisis center.

Depression is the leading cause of suicide and the longer a person has to face depression alone, the more discouraged a person may feel. The use of drugs and alcohol can also be warning signs of depression, which can lead to suicide. One in three suicides are due to drugs and alcohol, according to Health Magazine. Alcohol and drugs impair your judgment therefore your thoughts are not clear but fogged. Eighty percent of suicide attempts are also impulsive, which can be caused by drug and alcohol use. If a friend or loved one purchases a firearm, this is a major red flag because the risk of a suicide is increased by 10 times if someone has a weapon in their possession, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Health problems can also increase depression, which can increase the risk of suicide, especially in elderly people. If a friend or loved one has researched how to commit suicide, this is also a red flag and the person needs to seek medical attention immediately. A depressed individual should not have access to weapons or medications.

Depression can be treated especially when diagnosed as early as possible. The first step to be taken is to seek medical health through your family doctor or mental health specialist. Post-traumatic stress disorder, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder are all forms of Anxiety disorders that can accompany depression.

If you notice a friend or loved one is depressed, offer them emotional support, listen to the person, and do not make them feel hopeless. Listen if they discuss suicide, invite them to join in activities, help them seek medical attention, and remind them depression does not define who they are and things will get better.

If you are depressed, you may feel tired, hopeless and completely drained. Do not wait before seeking medical help. The longer you wait, the harder it can be. Exercise and participate in activities. Be realistic when setting goals. Find that one special person you can always confide in and spend time with other people. Do not expect immediate results. Do not make major life decisions during this time therefore it is best to discuss decisions with friends or loved ones who know you well. It’s best to think positive and stay educated about depression.

I am 34-years-old and have suffered from depression for years. I have had my good days and my not-so-good days. I have taken anti-depressants and sought medical attention for therapy. A combination of both has worked best for me. Every individual is different and what works for one person may not be the answer for the other. I know that for me, having a good network of friends and family makes me feel great!

Mississippi College offers counseling through Student Counseling Services located on the 4th floor of Alumni Hall. Student Counseling Services offers individual and group counseling services to students with disabilities and referral information. An experienced counselor can help you with trauma, drugs and alcohol, phobias, suicide, stress, anxiety, disorders, sexual assault, family issues, pregnancy, depression, etc. The Student Counseling Services Department (SCSD) offers FREE counseling to any Mississippi College student. SCSD maintains complete confidentiality. Examples of some outreach programs provided by SCSD are Carnival on the Quad, Love Revolution, Hammering out your Finals, Pet a Puppy, Alcohol Awareness Week and National Depression Screening Day. Please contact Morgan L. Bryant, the Director of Student Counseling and Disability Services or email him at mbryant@mc.edu. You may also call 601-925-7790.

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