Depression – Mental Health Awareness Week
Did you know that 1 in 5 people will experience some kind of mental health issue in the course of their life. Especially during this pandemic, many of us thought it would offer us the opportunity to be more productive, do more at home or simply do more of the things we always thought we would, if we had more time. But why has this not been the case for most of us? Social isolation, a change in work environment, and added stress (kids at home, a lot of people together in a small space, sound overload, financial worries) are all factors that contribute to us feeling overwhelmed in one way or another.
Research has shown that around the world as much as 4 out of 10 people have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression since the start of the pandemic (up from 1 in 10)
Some of us may know how to ride this emotional roller coaster – we get down, but find little sparks of hope to help get us through. For others, these overwhelming emotions can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Research has shown that around the world as much as 4 out of 10 people have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression since the start of this pandemic (up from 1 in 10), with many reporting specific negative impact on their mental health and well-being: difficulty sleeping or eating, increase in alcohol consumption or substance use, and worsening of chronic health conditions.
For Mental Health Awareness Week, we wanted to have a candid and open conversation about depression and help shed some light on a topic that is not often discussed in our community.
What is depression (major depressive disorder)?
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
- Feeling sad
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite, weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Symptoms must last at least two weeks and must represent a change in your previous level of functioning for a diagnosis of
“Throughout the pandemic, women have been more likely to report poor mental health compared to men. For example, 47% of women reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder compared to 38% of men in December 2020.”
– The implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and substance use – www.kff.org
Depression is not the same as sadness and/or grief
Many have suffered loss during this pandemic. The death of a loved one, loss of a job or the ending of a relationship are difficult experiences for a person to endure. It is normal for feelings of sadness or grief to develop in response to such situations. Those experiencing loss often might describe themselves as being “depressed.”
But being sad is not the same as having depression. The grieving process is natural and unique to each individual and shares some of the same features of depression. Both grief and depression may involve intense sadness and withdrawal from usual activities.
Here are some of the most notable differences:
- When you’re grieving, painful feelings come in waves, often intermixed with positive memories of the deceased. In major depression, mood and/or interest (pleasure) are decreased for most of two weeks.
- Self-esteem is usually maintained in grief, while in major depression, feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing are common.
- In grief, thoughts of death may surface when thinking of or fantasizing about “joining” the deceased loved one. In major depression, thoughts are focused on ending one’s life due to feeling worthless or undeserving of living or being unable to cope with the pain of depression
How is depression treated?
Fortunately, depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Between 80% and 90% percent of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment. Almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms. There are a number of things people can do to help reduce the symptoms of depression. For many people, regular exercise helps create positive feeling and improves mood by increasing serotonin which is a mood hormone. Getting enough quality sleep on a regular basis, eating a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol (a depressant) can also help reduce symptoms of depression.
Depression is a real disorder and help is available. With proper diagnosis and treatment, the vast majority of people with depression will overcome it. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, a first step is to see your family physician or psychologist. Talk about your concerns and request a thorough evaluation. This is a start to addressing your mental health needs.
Unfortunately, the majority of people prefer not seeking help because they are scared of being judged or considered crazy. This is a stigma that has to be changed. It IS ok to talk about this, it IS ok to have open conversations around this and it IS definitely ok to seek professional help for this.