Mental health concerns are a serious topic that no one likes to discuss. With the recent death of renowned comedian Robin Williams and multi-talented Wayne Brady disclosing his bouts with depression, this silent killer has once again become a hot topic.
As clinicians, we have fought so hard for the Mental Health Parity Act of 2008. Now, what is that you might ask? It’s about allowing individuals not to be limited in the number of mental health sessions they can have. When you go to your primary care physicians, you do not have a cap on the number of times you can see the doctor. The Mental Health Parity Act was passed, however, we still have people in the world who won’t seek help.
Depression is not an easy topic to discuss. And, believe it or not, some people do not know they are depressed. But those that do may feel things won’t get better; in other words, they feel hopeless. Then there is shame and embarrassment; they feel stuck, or don’t know how to seek out help.
If you know someone that has changed or doesn’t seem themselves, I encourage you to talk to them to help determine what is wrong. You may think, “I don’t know what to say to them.” Saying something as simple as, “If you ever need to talk to someone I am here. I care about you.” Just knowing someone is there and concerned could really be the difference between life and death. “Depression and anxiety are risk factors for suicide” (NIMH).
The Problem of Denial
Some people are in denial, but loved ones around them can be too. It is easier for people to not deal with things and not talk about them. But does that make the pain, anger and frustration go away? Why won’t we say something? Maybe it’s fear, fear of the unknown, fear that your loved one will distance themselves or become mute. Sometimes it is not knowing what to do or who to call that stops people in their tracks.
One of the best things you can do is contact your local health center to gather information. That way when you talk to your friend or loved one you will already be armed with information. You don’t have to say you called on their behalf because they may feel that you are being intrusive, but just say you have some information. You may need to go a step further and make an appointment for them to seek professional help, and then go with them for support.
The holidays are upon us, and this can be some of the toughest times for those battling depression. If you know someone that has recently lost a loved one, reach out to them and invite them to dinner, bowling, an outdoor activity, or go to the movies with them to see something funny or inspiring. The most important thing is to just let them know that they are not alone and someone cares about them. It really is the thought that counts.
Signs of Depression
Below are some signs of depression. When these symptoms last longer than two weeks and interfere with daily activities, the person is most likely suffering from depression.
*Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
*Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
*Feelings of guilt,worthlessness, helplessness
*Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities including sex, decreased energy, fatigue, feeling slowed down
*Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
*Insomnia, early-morning awakening or excessive sleeping, low appetite, and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
*Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
*Restlessness or irritability
*Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and pain for which no other cause can be diagnosed
Source: The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). NIMH is a part of the National Institute of Health (NIH) a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.
For help call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
Sonya Waddell is a licensed professional counselor outside of Atlanta. She is the author of “Single Ladies: Living Holy in a Sexy World” which can be purchased on Amazon.