The Brain

Identifying And Overcoming Depression

August 12, 2014 | by Lisa Winter

Photo credit: Michaël Korchia via flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Today it was discovered that comedian and Academy Award-winning actor Robin Williams has died of an apparent suicide, following a struggle with depression. His tragic death was a somber reminder that we need to continue the conversation about depression and how to overcome this mental disorder.

Depression isn’t the same as occasionally feeling the blues or temporarily feeling in a rut. Depression is a serious low mood disorder that can bring about all-encompassing feeling of sadness, irritability, hopelessness, sleep disorder, body aches, and even thoughts of suicide. Approximately 19 million Americans are living with the condition, so anybody who feels alone in this struggle should really know that they aren’t. Depression can be caused by biological, environmental, and psychological factors, in addition to personal experiences such as divorce or death of a loved one. Depression can be triggered by even small occurrences

Those who are depressed are more likely to exhibit risky behavior with drugs and alcohol, as well as being more likely to attempt suicide. In fact, these risk factors due to serious mental illness are more associated with a shorter lifespan than smoking.

There are many treatment options available for those who have been diagnosed with depression. There are a variety of medications that have very high success rates of managing symptoms and improving quality of life, and a physician will be able to examine someone’s medical history in order to determine which has the best fit. 

The effects of the medication can be supplemented with counseling sessions with a trained psychologist. Finding enjoyable hobbies such as art or music can help channel and release some of the negative emotions, and physical exercise has been shown to reduce moderate symptoms.

Out of all of the options out there to get out from under depression, suicide is not one of them. Yes, depression sucks. A lot. It’s a constant battle to feel sad, empty, tired, and alone, and many people don’t see another way out, but there are always other options. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary and treatable problem and it is not worth it.

Some people refuse to seek treatment because of a presumed stigma associated with getting treatment for mental health. Getting treatment for a debilitating mental disorder is no reason to feel ashamed. Seeking treatment for depression is no different than seeking treatment for cancer or a broken bone.

If you are one of these people avoiding treatment, please know that it is okay to get help. You are not at fault for your condition, but depression is treatable. It’s completely understandable to be sensitive to the bad things that happen in this world, and there’s no shame in that. I know it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes, but don’t give up. There are many people and resources available to you to help with this fight. You will never have to take on this challenge alone.

If someone close to you has been diagnosed with depression or has been talking about suicide, please learn how to be there for them. Someone who is depressed will likely not be able to explain why, and asking could just result in their frustration. The best way to support someone who is experiencing depression is to just listen to them and be available to them without judgment. Tough love won’t work, and will make the person feel more isolated. Supporting someone with a mental disorder can be extremely hard and frustrating, but is incredibly important.

If you have been experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek help immediately. Here are some resources based on location, in the four countries that make up most of our viewership:

USA:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 24-hour hotline for crisis intervention, suicide prevention, and mental health services. Every call is free, anonymous, and confidential.

Suicide.org: This website contains links to suicide prevention resources in every state.

The Trevor Project: A suicide prevention and crisis intervention resource for LGBTQ teens.

Canada:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 24-hour hotline for crisis intervention, suicide prevention, and mental health services. Every call is free, anonymous, and confidential.

Suicide.org: This website contains links to suicide prevention resources across Canada.

Kids Help Phone: Free, anonymous, confidential hotline for Canadians under the age of 20.

UK:

PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide: Charity dedicated to raising awareness and reducing the stigma of depression. There are counselors available via phone, email, or text who can provide crisis intervention.

Samaritans: Though the name sounds religious, this is a secular organization that provides crisis intervention for those in need. 

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): England-based charity aimed to reduce depression and crisis among males.

Australia:

Lifeline: This organization provides mental health support and crisis intervention through free, anonymous, and confidential phone calls across Australia. 

Kids Help Line: Hotline provides crisis intervention and mental health support for young Australians ages 5-25.

If your location is not listed here, please search for resources local to your area, or contact your doctor, family, or friends for help. 

Please remember that you are not alone and that you can get through this.

[Header image “Le repli / The fold” by Michaël Korchia via flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

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