Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses to affect teenagers and adults. It carries a stigma, unfortunately: Many people think that those with depression just need to “snap out of it” or “stop looking for attention.” Tragically, depression sometimes leads to suicide, which is a leading cause of death for young people in the United States. Raising depression awareness can help defeat the stigma of the illness and can also help people suffering from it to reach out and get the help that they need to defeat it. Here are nine ways you can help raise depression awareness.
1. Talk About It
Having frank discussions about depression with your children and family members can help raise depression awareness. If a celebrity goes public with their story of depression or when someone well-known commits suicide, it is important to discuss the issue with those you love. Talk about how many people are affected by the disease and let people know that there are treatment options available. Depression is treatable with the right specialists, therapies, and, in some cases, medications, so there is no reason to feel hopeless if someone you know is depressed.
2. Address Some Myths
As mentioned previously, there are many myths about depression. One great way to raise depression awareness is to help dispel those myths. If you hear someone propagating myths about depression, be sure to speak up kindly but firmly. For example, if a friend says that someone suffering from depression just needs to get out of bed and spend her time doing something productive, you can let them know that depression does not have an on/off switch and that medical treatment is often needed for someone to feel better.
3. Share Mental Health Screening Information
Any family doctor, pediatrician, or general practitioner can screen their patients for depression. In fact, many doctors do this as a matter of routine. People can access mental health screening in their state by going to Help Yourself Help Others and clicking on the appropriate state. They can also take a self-screening test online and take their answers to their doctor. You can share these sites via social media to reach all of your friends and followers. With one in five people suffering from depression at some point in their lives, it is likely that the information will help someone.
4. Share Your Story
Have you struggled with depression? It is a very personal struggle, and many individuals are reluctant to share these details. Know that by sharing your story, however, you are helping to raise depression awareness and might inspire someone else to seek treatment. Depression is a hidden illness and most of the time, nobody knows who is struggling with it or who has struggled with it in the past. If you have recovered, you can be an inspiration for others who are in the midst of feeling depressed and hopeless. There is light at the end of the tunnel!
5. Watch for Bullying
One major cause of depression in teenagers, in particular, is bullying. Bullying can defeat a person’s self-esteem and cause sadness, hopelessness, and even suicidal ideation. Know the signs of bullying and talk to your children or teenagers about it. Check in with their school to find out what the anti-bullying policies are, and if you know someone who is being bullied, be sure that they are followed. Don’t hesitate to get the authorities involved in cases of cyberbullying, physical assault, or other criminal activity.
6. Memorize the Suicide Prevention Hotline
If you know someone is in crisis, encourage them to call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This is a free call and it is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Other options for someone who is in severe crisis are taking them to the emergency room or calling 911. Emergency room physicians can screen someone for severe depression or suicidality and get them the crisis treatment they need.
7. Reach Out to a Friend in Need
If you have a friend who you suspect is suffering from depression, reach out to them. Don’t avoid them because it makes you uncomfortable. If they don’t want to get out of bed and leave the house, you can go visit them at their house just to talk. If you can coax them outside in the sun or for a short walk, that’s even better, because sunlight and exercise can help reduce symptoms of depression.
8. Know the Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Knowing the signs and symptoms to look for can help you identify whether you or a close family member or friend might be dealing with depression. Telling others about what types of behaviors and feelings can characterize depression can encourage them to get help for themselves or their loved ones. Some of the signs of depression include:
- Losing interest in activities
- Feeling sad or hopeless for two weeks or more
- Not being able to get out of bed
- Eating too much or too little
- Physical complaints like headaches and digestive problems
- Frequent crying
- Refusing to go to school or work
9. Get Help for Yourself or Your Child
Reaching out for help is the first step toward feeling better, but many people find it difficult. If you or your family member are struggling with depression, a visit to your primary care doctor is a good way to get the ball rolling. After a screening, that doctor can refer you to a specialist, if needed. Treatment options usually include counseling and sometimes include medication. There are also lifestyle changes you can make, including eating a healthier diet, exercising each day, and getting enough sleep, that can make a noticeable difference when it comes to your symptoms.
Depression is a challenge, but it is a fact of life for many people. Raising depression awareness is good for individuals and for communities. There are many resources available if you need treatment or if you would like to help raise awareness. You can find additional ideas at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.