The facts surrounding depression

Published 7:01 am Sunday, October 9, 2016

QUESTION: What should we all know about depression?

ANSWER:  I watched my mother cope with bouts of depression since I was 11. I learned a lot from her. I came to realize that few people know much about the illness of depression.

The following myths and facts from SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) are important to understand and share with others when the opportunity arises:

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MYTH: Depression isn’t really an illness. FACT: The brain is an organ of the body that can get sick just like the heart, liver or kidneys.  Chemicals in the brain regulate how people think, feel and act. The brain can get sick if these chemicals are out of balance or get disrupted and the illness called clinical depression can result.

MYTH: People who have depression appear to be sad. FACT: There are many different symptoms associated with depression; sadness is only one of them.  Some people have chronic anger, worry, panic or anxiety. Many hide their feelings of despair and smile to mask their pain.

MYTH: People with depression should be able to snap themselves out of it. FACT: Depression doesn’t have anything to do with a person’s character or willpower.  It is an illness that people can’t talk themselves out of, just like people can’t talk themselves out of having diabetes or heart disease. Treatment is the best way to stop depression.

MYTH: Something bad has to happen to people in order for them to get depression. FACT: Depression can happen at any time, even when a person’s life is going well.  Stressful events can trigger or deepen depression, but anyone can get depression regardless of age, race, economic status or environment.

MYTH: Depression isn’t serious. FACT: Depression is a serious illness that can be deadly.  Experts estimate that about 70 percent of suicides are a result of untreated depression. Untreated depression in adults can also lead to unemployment, financial problems, divorce or substance abuse. In young people, it can cause problems at home, in school and with friendships.

It is important to know that the best help you can give someone who may have depression is encouragement to seek professional help. Depression affects moods and behavior. Effective treatment can change problem behavior.  Remember that you are not responsible for a loved one’s depression, anymore than you would be responsible for someone’s cancer or heart disease. Being a loving spouse, daughter, son, parent, friend or co-worker cannot cure someone’s depression, but your support can make getting treatment easier.

If you would like to talk about the challenges of raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434-9528.  For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out free resources at the Parenting Resource Center Specialty Library (105 First Street SE, Austin).