The Many Faces of Depression and How to Recognize Them

The Many Faces of Depression

And How to Recognize Them

We all know someone who has a story of depression. It could be a neighbor or a childhood friend. It could be a story of the returning vet, the family physician, or a colleague from work. Perhaps it is a story that is closer to home: of a cousin, an uncle, a brother or sister, a grandparent, a father, a mother, a child. Or maybe it is our own.

Depression is the primary cause of suicide in the United States. Children and teens are especially vulnerable, as suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages five to 24. Every thirteen minutes another suicide occurs, leading to well over 41,000 a year. As startling as this statistic is, experts warn it may be lower than the actual number of suicides per year. Due to the persistent stigma attached to depression, many of those struggling with the illness do so in shame and silence, and many deaths by suicide go unreported.

Simply put, depression is a national public health crisis in the United States and the world’s number one cause of disability. Over 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide.  Aside from incalculable human suffering, the cost to society is massive. The economic toll of depression on businesses in the United States is $100 billion annually, of which $23 billion alone are due to lost work days.

Everybody has a story. Yet as a society we are falling short in addressing the epidemic or even talking about it. That’s why I started the Hope for Depression Research Foundation eleven years ago to spur brain research and raise awareness. Today, our Depression Task Force of top neuroscientists is conducting the most advanced depression research in the country. They have three new compounds in pilot clinical trials, each of which represent a new way to treat depression. The field has not seen a new category of antidepressants in over thirty years.

“The first steps to a healthy mind and body are to get enough sleep, eat properly, and exercise, whether you do or don’t have depression.  Every health professional will emphasize these three pillars of mental health. Here’s to hope in your future.”

HDRF Founder and Chair, Audrey Gruss, at the Walk of Hope to Defeat Depression (Photo courtesy of hopefordepression.org)

We also need to move the dial on our national conversation about depression. We’ve got to get the word out faster and farther than we ever have before. For those who suffer from mind-brain illness, understanding what they’re going through is the first step. The second is finding people to talk to. We need public education and widespread discussion so that those who need it are empowered to seek help, and those who encounter the illness in a friend or loved one have the necessary understanding and compassion to offer meaningful support.

The signs and symptoms below can indicate depression when they are present nearly every day for at least two weeks: 

– Sad or crying unexpectedly

– Anxious or irritable

– Loss of interest, pleasure

– Hopeless or helpless

– Low energy, fatigue

– Sleeping too much or too little

– Loss of appetite or weight gain

– Difficulty concentrating

– Aches or pains with no clear physical cause

– Thoughts of suicide

Men may show additional symptoms of depression, such as: womanizing, gambling, drinking excessively, and belligerence. Experts believe that when these symptoms are taken into account, just as many men have depression as women. 

If you notice any of these symptoms in someone close to you, here are some suggestions on how you can help:

– Offer an ear: Ask questions and listen to the answers. If you haven’t suffered from depression, it can be difficult to understand what it’s like, so go easy on the advice.

– Gently suggest getting a doctor’s help: If your loved one isn’t getting help from either a medical doctor or a therapist, gently suggest that he or she seek help. The first step is to see a primary care physician.

– Form a community: Rally other friends or family members to help support the person with depression. It’s hard to take it all on your own shoulders.

– Learn about your loved one’s treatment plan: If you’re involved in the person’s care, make sure you know what the treatment plan is. If possible, have the person give permission to his or her doctor to communicate with you.

– Finally, if someone you know is suicidal, immediately call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911.

Audrey Gruss

Audrey Gruss is the Founder and Chairman of the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. She is also the President of the Audrey and Martin Gruss Foundation, which supports a wide range of charities with a focus on medical research, cultural research, and education.

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