For all of the treatments available for clinical depression, no single one reliably works for everyone. One person may improve on Wellbutrin, while another finds relief from a therapist. It’s a maddening, time-consuming trial-and-error effort.
Worse yet, most people don’t even bother seeking out treatment for their depression. They stumble through life in depression’s gray haze, trying to make the best of things by using whatever coping skills they’ve got. Friends. Alcohol. Work. Video games. Exercise.
But what if simply listening to someone teach you about depression — like in a classroom — could actually help treat it?
As a Master of Social Work student, my first field placement was at an acute mental health inpatient facility on an adolescent unit. Each day I went to my placement, I saw an increasing number of rotating teenagers coming into the hospital due to suicidal ideation or a suicide attempt.
My experience in the adolescent unit showed me just how much suicide affects the teen population. As a result, I have become an advocate for education on, and the prevention of, suicide.
Psychiatrist Dan Siegel once got a definition of energy from a conference of physicists: “It’s the capacity to make stuff happen.”
“Making stuff happen” is extremely important when we’re talking about depression, since depression acts primarily as a monitor and regulator of energy level. Like a nuclear power plant technician, depression goes into a hyperactive alarm mode when the levels start to dip, ringing bells and rapidly shutting down systems.
People who know me know that very little in the tech world gets me excited. I’ve seen so many tech ideas constantly recycled and repackaged from the 2000s, it makes me, well — I hate to admit it — but I’m a little jaded.
So a few years ago, when I first caught whiff of apps for monitoring your happiness in a completely passive manner, I was intrigued.
More researchers are jumping on this bandwagon, and it’s one of the few innovations in smartphone apps worthy of a mention.
Recently, the New York Times reported on a disturbing uptick in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans. Suicide among those ages 35-64 rose nearly 30 percent from 1999 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Times points out that previously, suicide was largely thought to be most prevalent among youth and elderly populations; the CDC findings come as a surprise to many. Moreover, it was found that middle-aged men commit suicide at much higher rates than women in the same category. The suicide rate for middle-aged women was 8.1 deaths per 100,000, while for men it more than tripled to 27.3 deaths per 100,000.
T. M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford, penned an interesting editorial recently in the New York Times called “Is the World More Depressed?”
She recounts her recent conversation with Indian psychiatrist Rangaswamy Thara, who reported the influx of people seeking help for mental illness and the rise in suicide in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which had a suicide rate last year of 25 per 100,000 people. (For comparison, the rate in the United States is 12 per 100,000).
I was in a bad place five years ago.
Well, to be perfectly honest I was just in a different place. I thought it was “bad” at the time because I didn’t know that things were also actually great in many ways in my life. The only thing for certain in life is change, so we have only to hope that this change is of the evolutionary variety and not the difficult, stagnant, whiny variety. Alas, in truth, our personal processes are always a little bit of both.
“I am larger and better than I thought.” ~ Walt Whitman
In the movie “All Is Lost” with Robert Redford, the vast expanse of the never-ending sea could serve as a metaphor for stretches of life when there seems to be nothing on the horizon but more depression and inevitable despair. The increasingly futility of his efforts to survive also can be compared to treating depression as a losing battle, considering the over 120 million sufferers worldwide and counting.
In his latest book, Out of the Blue, Bill O’Hanlon makes a valuable contribution to turning that tide. In his opening dedication he writes, “Let me reassure your soul that there is a way out.”
Before she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, blogger Elaina J. Martin was prescribed an antidepressant in college. Someone laughed and called her medication “happy pills.”
When she’s experienced a depressive episode, people have said things like “There is nothing to be upset about” or “Think how lucky you are. You are way better off than some people.”
The following is an interview with Alies Muskin, executive director of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
Q: National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week is from May 4-10 this year. Why do you feel it’s important that there’s a week dedicated to the awareness of anxiety and depression?
A: Millions of children and adults suffer from an anxiety disorder such as panic disorder or social anxiety disorder, depression or a related disorder, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Many suffer in silence, do not seek treatment, or even realize that they have a real, serious, and treatable condition. National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week allows ADAA and other organizations to highlight these disorders and offer educational resources and information to those who suffer and their families.