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National Depression Screening Day, Thursday October 8, 2009

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

human head in puzzle piecesIntroduction:

Thursday, October 8, 2009 is National Depression Screening Day. This is an annual event during which clinicians all across the nation make themselves available either on the Internet, in Shopping Mall, Public Libraries and elsewhere for the purpose of explaining depression and providing a free and anonymous and completely confidential questionnaire for you to complete and give to your health care provider to assess if you are depressed. In addition, referral sources are given to those people who want a mental health practitioner in their area. The practitioners who are listed come from the ranks of Psychiatrists, Clinical Psychologists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers and Public and Private agencies that make psychotherapy and treatment available.

A Message for Everyone:

Of course, every day should be marked by depression awareness. Depression is now epidemic on a world wide scale. This is true for nations that are rich or poor. Yet, many people remain unaware of depression, its symptoms and the dangers it poses. Therefore, in the spirit of spreading information to those who may not be aware, this article is submitted for everyone to read, even if you already know and are sophisticated in this area of information. Even if you are one of those who know a lot about depression, the fact remains that you may not be aware of yourself having depression.

Myths About Depression:

Even today, with all of our technology that makes the spread of information easier than ever before in history, people continue to be uninformed about depression and to cling to false beliefs about its nature and dangers.

Myths:

Myth 1. Anyone can control their feelings if they just make the effort. They should "just snap out of it."
Fact 1. Those who struggle with feelings of depression feel quite helpless and unable to "snap out of it."No person chooses to be depressed. The feelings of sadness, emptiness and hopelessness are extremely painful.

Myth 2. Depressed people are weak and have no moral fiber.
Fact 2. Some of our most famous people, successful, strong, in leadership positions from the present time into the past suffered depression. For example, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Tenessee Williams, William James, John Stuart Mill, Mary Shelley, and many others, including our most famous actors and celebrities and leaders.

Myth 3. Depression is not a real medical illness, its "just in your head."
Fact 3. Depression is a medical illness with the biochemistry of the brain and nervous system fully involved. This is one reason why people respond positively to medication treatment for depression. It was recently discovered that inflammation of the neurons in the brain cause the low mood associated with depression.

Myth 4. Depression and the "Blues" are the same.
Fact 4. There is a major difference between getting the blues and feeling depressed. Yes, peoples' moods can and do vary, with anyone having a day or two where they feel at low energy. However, depression is persistent, lasting more than two weeks and attacking people with a relentless feeling of utter despair. Any type of depressed feeling that lasts two or more weeks can be dangerous, leading to suicidal thoughts and even suicidal attempts.

Myth 5. A suicide threat is just an attempt to get attention and should be ignored.
Fact 5. Suicide threats should be taken seriously and, depending on the person and how long their depression has lasted, should be brought to the hospital for evaluation. If a person has made a suicide attempt, there is a good chance that they will repeat the attempt.

What About You?

Anyone can experience depression, at least once during their life.

Do you feel depressed? Do you feel tired, sleepy, without energy, hopeless? Do you cry easily, do you have thoughts and feelings of low self worth? Are you sleeping less, eating much more or much less, gaining significantly more weight, less weight, etc? Have you become irritable, easy to anger, quick to feel hurt, ignored or annoyed?

Believe it or not, it is easy to ignore these and other symptoms. Many people, over the years of my psychotherapy practice, told me that they did not realize they were depressed. In fact, there have been occasions where I have told patients that I was certain they were depressed and, after gaining a full understanding of what that meant, fully agreed. That is important because, to get help, one must realize they need help.

If you suspect that you are depressed, that your child is depressed or that you teenager, husband or other loved one is depressed, get yourself screened or have that individual screened. People do not have to wait for October 8 to do this. Make an appointment at your local clinic or speak to your medical doctor.

You could save a life by doing this: Your life or the life of a loved one.

Please submit your experiences with depression as well as questions about yourself or a loved one.

If you live in the Denver/Boulder area I am available for consultation. Just send me an E. Mail.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.