According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability among teens and adults ages 15-44. What’s worse is that WHO expects depression rates to increase around the globe. A New York Times article, summarizing the WHO’s projections, indicated that the world population appears to be getting more and more depressed. Depression is already an experience of much of the global population, and the WHO expects it to be the second most prevalent medical condition in the world by 2020.
Furthermore, the New York Times article also points out that in 2011 the rate of antidepressant use in the United States rose by 400 percent between 1988 and 2008.And there was a 36.7% increase in mental illness and substance abuse disorders across the globe compared with 1990. Psychologically speaking, the world doesn’t appear to be getting any healthier.
For this reason, the WHO has established a year-long campaign to get the word out about depression. The campaign aims to last throughout 2017 in order to get people talking about the illness, versus keeping it to themselves which only causes more debilitating symptoms. The name of the campaign is Depression: Let’s Talk!
The Illness of Depression
Depression can come in different forms, from mild to severe to short-lived to chronic. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, it’s important to find out the specific type you have so that you can be properly treated. However, it is important to understand the mental illness first. Many individuals live with this mental health disorder every day and don’t know they have it. Often, it’s not until someone looks at a list of symptoms that they recognize they might be suffering from this mental illness.
Here are a list of symptoms to compare against your own experience:
- Low self-esteem
- High self-criticism
- Anger or aggression (commonly with depressed males)
- Confused and dysfunctional thinking
- High self-consciousness
- Long periods of depressed mood
- Loss of interest in activities
- Poor interpersonal problem solving and high stress from close relationships
- Antisocial behavior (commonly with depressed males)
- Under or over sleeping
- Weight loss/gain
- Difficulty coping with stress
- Relationship issues
- Presence of symptoms from other disorders, such as eating disorders, addiction, etc.
- Suicidal thoughts
- Poor concentration
- Poor memory
- Slow thinking
Furthermore, according to the Center for Disease Control, there is a strong relationship between depression and other conditions. For instance, when a person is feeling depressed, they may not be able to sleep; they might have the urge to drink alcohol; and/or they might not have the energy to exercise. If you’re feeling any of the above symptoms you might also experience these conditions:
Smoking: Depression is associated with an increased risk for smoking.
Alcohol and Drugs: Negative thoughts and feelings, which are common with depression, often lead someone to substances as a way to feel better. In fact, there is a high rate of addiction coupled with depression.
Lack of Physical Exercise: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies have found that the presence of depression is linked to inactive lifestyles. Symptoms of depression will reduce or go away entirely with increased exercise.
Sleep Disturbance: This is another factor that can both contribute to depression as well as become a habit when someone is already depressed. Changes in sleep patterns (over sleeping and under sleeping) are often a symptom of depression.
Know What to Do When You Are Depressed
The following is a list of action steps to take if depression takes a hold of your life.
- Get assessed for depression to determine if your symptoms clinically qualify for a diagnosis. Call a therapist or psychologist to schedule an assessment.
- If you are diagnosed with depression, talk to your mental health professional about a treatment plan and what you need to do to keep yourself healthy.
- Ask questions about how the treatment plan can meet your unique needs. For instance, an athlete might not want to take medication. In most cases, a treatment plan can include steps to help alleviate the depression without medication. (In other cases, medication may be necessary.)
- If you need to take medication, talk to the mental health professional you’re working with about side effects and how that medication may affect your daily functioning.
- Psychotherapy is often a part of treatment for depression. Be sure to attend every session to get the most out of your experience.
- When participating in psychotherapy, symptoms of depression can at first feel like they are getting worse. Discussing uncomfortable experiences can trigger negative feelings and thoughts. Yet, remember that this uncomfortable period is part of the healing process.
- Continue to follow your treatment plan. If you feel the need to make any adjustments, talk to your mental health professional.
- If you were experiencing suicidal thinking before treatment began, it might take some time before those thoughts go away.
- Continue to communicate with your mental health professional throughout your treatment.
How You Can Help a Loved One
If you’re concerned about a loved one or friend with depression, there are many things you can do to help. Here are a few actions steps you might consider taking in order to help your loved one or friend:
- Learn about WHO’s Depression: Let’s Talk campaign.
- Download their campaign guide and help spread the word and raise awareness.
- Hang the campaign posters around your community, including schools and health clinics.
- Organize an activity in your neighborhood to help spread the word.
- Share information on social media about the campaign. The hashtag for the campaign is #LetsTalk
- Educate yourself on depression
- Help prevent stigma and give others an opportunity to share their experiences with the mental illness.
- Connect with other organizations or groups working to help prevent stigma.
- Work with a journalist who might write an article using these WHO resources
The Most Important Step You Can Take
Whether it’s you or a loved one that is experiencing depression, the most important thing you can do it get professional help. Untreated depression is dangerous. When untreated, it can lead to:
- substance use
- poor work performance, job loss
- social issues
- relationship issues with friends and family
- reckless behavior
- suicide, loss of one’s life
Perhaps it’s obvious that when a person is depressed, they should get professional help. However, stigma, pride, lack of understanding and many other barriers can get in the way of reaching out for help. If you or a loved one are having trouble with your thoughts and feelings, and/or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, contact a mental health professional today.