May is Mental Health Awareness month. So, I want to take this opportunity to help educate you about the signs of depression and to decrease the stigma of mental health by talking about it. For purposes of this blog, I am going to focus on depression since it is the most common diagnosis and affects so many people.
I believe part of the reason for the stigma for depression is because it is not seeable or tangible like a broken bone or an illness such as diabetes. If someone breaks a bone, they go to the hospital, get an x-ray and have a cast put on. If they have diabetes they go to the doctor who identifies specific symptoms, does a blood test and prescribes medication. With depression, there is no definitive diagnostic test or visible physical symptoms. Yes, there are certain behaviors that are considered criteria for diagnosing but the actual diagnosis is a judgment made by a licensed clinician. Plus, depression is easier to hide than a broken bone or diabetes because many of the symptoms are based on self-report rather than a blood test.
With depression, treatment is not simply taking a medication. It usually also requires counseling to learn how to cope with the symptoms because these symptoms can impact daily functioning and can come and go throughout one’s life. Anyone who has gone through counseling knows it takes courage and a lot of hard work! It does not mean you are crazy. It means you are smart enough to know when to get help!
According to The Campaign to Change Direction, there are 5 signs to indicate someone is hurting and may need help. They are changes in personality, agitation, being withdrawn, poor self-care and hopelessness. Often times hopelessness can include frequent statements about death or wanting to die. If you are experiencing any of these, please reach out to a trusted family member or friend, or seek professional assistance. If someone you care about is experiencing any of these, please encourage them to seek help. The worst thing someone with depression can do is to isolate themselves. It is important to know that there is help. You can feel better.
Let’s stop the shame and embarrassment by talking about mental health, taking care of ourselves and reaching out to support one another!