October is National Depression Education Month. This is a time for all of us to spend a few minutes or hours learning what we can about this incredibly prevalent and often dangerous mental health disease. The more we know, the more likely it is that we will recognize the presence of depression in either ourselves or someone we love. That recognition could make an enormous difference or even safe a life.
Therefore, our team of Orange County mental health professionals at SoCal Empowered is going to present a brief introduction to depression education with 5 depression facts that everyone would be well-served to know. Of course, if you are already concerned about this situation and are not in need of depression education, you can always feel free to contact us at any time for help and input.
1. Depression Statistics In the United States
Unfortunately, one of the first things we need to understand when it comes to depression education is that compiling accurate statistics can be difficult. That’s because a large number of people who suffer from this disease in the United States are not diagnosed, as we’ve previously discussed. Therefore, any look at depression statistics needs to be viewed through this lens.
Despite that unfortunate challenge, there are depression statistics available. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, an estimated 21 million American adults suffered from some level of depression in 2020. That represents more than 8 percent of the adult population in the United States, or more people than the populations of all but three states: California, New York and Florida.
It’s safe to say that the real number of people who suffer from some level or type of depression during a given year is much higher than that. It’s also safe to say that depression education is something that could benefit an enormous number of people.
2. The History of Depression
Even though the field of psychiatry as it’s currently known is relatively young with respect to the history of the human race, its concepts date back to the beginning of time. Anyone who has studied depression education and delved into its history would see that its symptoms were at least recognized dating back to the ancient worlds of Greece and Mesopotamia. As one would imagine, the diagnoses were not exactly correct and the treatments not productive.
For instance, it was thought in Mesopotamia that people who seemingly were depressed had somehow offended their gods, so it was basically a spiritual problem. In Greece, philosophers believed that depressed people had problems with their bodily fluids. Fortunately, over the course of the 20th Century in particular, people began to learn more about depression and include it in the foundational diagnoses of psychological conditions.
3. Levels of Depression
As the world of psychology continued to advance, depression education moved forward with it. One of the advances involved the identification and definition of different types of depression. These days, there are several, and the Cleveland Clinic provides a few examples below:
- Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): This is also known as “clinical” depression. It lasts longer than two weeks and interferes with everyday life.
- Bipolar Depression: This is often diagnosed as bipolar disorder, but people suffering from this condition endure lows after highs that are very low and severe.
- Perinatal and Postpartum Depression: “Perinatal” is the term used now, as depressive symptoms can start before a child is born and last up to a year after birth.
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): Most people are familiar with PMS, but PMDD is a much more severe form of it that affects people in the days or weeks leading up to menstruation.
- Psychotic Depression: Psychotic depression is a severe form of depression that not only involves “traditional” feelings of hopelessness and the like, but also delusions and hallucinations.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Seasonal Affective Disorder is a period of depressive symptoms that typically starts in the fall and lasts into or even through winter before dissipating when spring arrives.
There are other types of depression that exist and more that are beginning to emerge as depression education continues around the world.
4. Warning Signs of Depression
Perhaps the most important component of depression education for those who are not professional researchers revolves around the understanding and recognition of its warning signs. That’s because severe cases of this disease can ultimately prove fatal, so the earlier it’s recognized and dealt with the better it is for the ultimate result of the situation.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are examples of common warning signs of depression:
- Feelings of seemingly intense sadness and resulting outbursts that include tears and expressions of hopelessness
- Expressions of sudden and persistent anger and even aggression, particularly when asked what may be wrong
- Persistent disruptions in sleep patterns, which can include more or less sleep
- Persistent feeling and expressions of anxiety and/or restlessness
- Withdrawal from everyday activities or hobbies
There can be others, but what may be of most help to people, regardless of their depression education levels, is that they should trust their instincts. For instance, if you suspect a loved one is suffering, take additional steps to find out what may be wrong.
5. Helping Someone Who May Be Suffering from Depression
Finally, no level of depression education is complete without offering some information on how to help someone who may be suffering. It’s going to be very difficult to start the conversation, but below are a few examples of how to do that with a loved one about whom you’re concerned:
- You seem like you’ve been down lately. Is everything OK? I’m concerned about you and want to make sure everything is manageable.
- I’ve noticed that something is different with you lately. I really care about you and want to ask if everything is alright. It’s totally fine if it’s not, but I just want to be sure.
Ask relatively open-ended, non-confrontational questions, and don’t be surprised if the person initially tries to avoid answering them. That in itself may be a warning sign, so be cautiously and respectfully persistent.
If the person does ultimately open up, examples of questions to ask include:
- How long have you been dealing with this situation?
- Was it something that happened or did these feeling just start somehow?
- How can I help you handle this?
Finally, if you remain concerned, you should ask the person if he or she has thought about getting some help or talking to someone. If not, reassure this person that you love him or her and that it may be worthwhile to at least have a conversation with someone to see if it would help.
What you should NOT do, regardless of the situation, is come off as judgmental or dismissive. Don’t tell a person that they “just have the blues” or that “this is all in their mind” or anything along those lines, as that could push the person farther down into the hole of depression.
Depression Education and SoCal Empowered
Ultimately, depression is like any other serious disease in that it’s a damaging situation that needs professional intervention. If you’re concerned about yourself or someone you love, please contact us today so we can help you decide on the best course of action. Time may be of the essence, so we hope you’ll talk to us soon so we can jump in and help.