It is not uncommon for people to feel down or sad after the excitement of the holidays have passed; the dark winter that seems to last forever can draw mood down; a recent loss or uncertainty about the future can also bring on a feeling of depression. These kinds of depression can be temporary. But for some people depression sticks around (Depression, 2016).
Depression can affect anyone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression “is one of the most common disorders in the US” (Depression, 2016). The World Health Organization also reports that depression is one of the most common mental health disorders worldwide (Brown, & Rakusen, 2018). Perhaps the prevalence of depression can be attributed to the fact that it is not caused by a single factor. Research indicates that a combination of genetic, biological, psychological and environmental factors cause depression (Depression, 2016).
Like the combination of factors that work together to cause depression, there are different approaches that can be taken to treat it. The traditional method is to prescribe antidepressants along with psychotherapy. Electroconvulsive therapy, a form of brain stimulation, is also an option if medication fails to produce improvement. According to NIMH, there are other forms of brain stimulation that are more recent, including some that are still under investigation (Depression, 2016).
Other forms of treatment include self-improvement actions that a person can begin on their own. Sleeping seven to eight hours a night helps reset the brain. Many people have found exercise and a healthy diet helps improve symptoms of depression too. Alison Ross, an adjunct professor at the City University of New York told U.S. News that socializing is helpful to treat depression, as long as the people are supportive and lift each other up (Levine, 2018). Ross also suggests creating a home that feels warm and welcoming—something personalized—to combat depression. Doing so can get the mind on something else while creating a sense of belonging at the same time (Levine, 2018).
Taking care of another living thing such as a plant, pet or another person helps to lift the mood as well (Levine, 2018). A study found that teenagers who help strangers have higher rates of self-esteem, and that volunteering can connect people, helping to relieve depression (Fraga, 2018).
Unfortunately, those with depression or other mental illnesses must also battle social stigma. If someone confides in another person that they have a mental illness, the listener may place their own bias on the speaker. The idea of the old-school mental institutions of the early 1900s still lingers in society’s mind. But people are now trying to break the stigma of depression and offer support in creative ways.
Brown and Rakusen with the BBC reported on Jarlath McCreanor of Northern Ireland. Jarlath has dealt with depression for 30 years (Brown & Rakusen, 2018). He decided to help others with depression by offering a driving service that is also a safe place to talk about depression. His car is now bright yellow with the words “AWARE Overcoming Depression” across the side (Brown & Rakusen, 2018). His goals are to break the stigma associated with depression and get people talking about it.
A man in Austin, Texas, who also suffers from depression, began a non-profit organization with the goal of breaking the stigma (Lee, 2018). His organization, called Depression 2 Extinction, offers support through social media by connecting people with depression to others to give them a safe place to talk. The organization also offers support for exercise and other measures to help battle depression (Lee, 2018).
In Shanghai practitioners at The Children’s Hospital of Fudan University noticed that children hospitalized for other diseases showed signs of depression (Wenjun, 2018). The hospital responded to the problem by creating a club for the children with exercise and art classes as well as psychological guidance provided by professionals.
Probably one of the hardest things for someone with depression to do, getting out and talking about their struggles, offers many benefits for them.
Talking about depression can pave the way to mental health.
Brown, R., & Rakusen, I. (Producers), & . (2018, Jan 11,). Car share: Driving away depression. [Video/DVD] BBC.
Depression. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
Fraga, J. (2018, Jan 13,). Helping strangers may help teens’ self -esteem. NPR News Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/01/13/577463475/helping-strangers-may-help-teens-self-esteem
Lee, J. (2018). Austin man starts non-profit to fight depression stigma. Retrieved from http://www.kvue.com/news/local/austin-man-starts-nonprofit-to-fight-depression-stigma/505604566
Levine, D. (2018, Jan 12,). What lifestyle changes can help fight off depression?. U.S. News Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/2018-01-12/what-lifestyle-changes-can-help-fight-off-depression
Wenjun, C. (2018, Jan 10,). New club to target depression in children with chronic diseases. Shine Retrieved from https://www.shine.cn/news/metro/1801108868/