By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Depression is a topic that is hard for many to understand, difficult for sufferers to cope with and often something challenging to talk about. Whether it’s because of the various misconceptions or the complexity of the subject, too often depression gets misdiagnosed or ignored. Making matters worse, 2020 has offered a consistent plate of unpredictability, tragedy and anxiety that has led to an increase in reported depression cases.
“With everything that everyone has experienced through this pandemic, oftentimes we don’t know how to handle everything that has been thrown at us on a daily basis,” said Jody Pittsley, associate administrator for behavioral health at Oswego Health. “Part of the process is trying to identify what causes people to feel depressed and offering coping mechanisms, like breathing, music or any way to relieve the stress in our lives.”
Mental health experts view trauma as any event or circumstances where a person experiences overwhelming or life-changing feelings. It can have physiological, social and spiritual impact. Kathaleen Healy, a registered nurse at Oswego, and Pittsley discuss five aspects of depression that people should know.
1. Watch the symptoms
Although depression symptoms may vary in intensity or frequency, there are a few warning signs. A person may feel sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness. There are times with angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters. When depression hits, there is a loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much, and reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain. There can be feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame.
“I think some people feel like they have a hard time admitting that they are dealing with something. They try to hide or self-medicate to decrease their symptoms and make it go away,” said Pittsley. “When these feelings just don’t go away for days, then you can’t just attribute it to a few restless nights. It is not just being tired but feeling worthless, hopelessness and recklessness.”
2. Difficult talking about it
There is still a stigma about people expressing their inner thoughts about their depression. Some people will simply call it the blues or dismiss it as something that can easily be solved with a nap or vacation. However, it goes deeper than that. And because of the layers associated with depression and the backlash from family and friends, sometimes people decide to keep that part of their lives to themselves.
“People are fearful about how others will treat them if they openly share their thoughts about their depression,” said Healy. “They fear that people will look at them as not being strong or just being a scared individual and it puts them in a vulnerable place.”
3. COVID and depression
This pandemic is currently having an impact on the way people live and navigate the world. It is also causing a great deal of terror, despair, and even grief given the enormous and yet rising death toll. It can impact a person’s sense of control, encroaching on the comfort zones and requiring them to adjust to continually fluid situations. Being quarantined at home for months has also had an impact.
“When people feel isolated, it can easily lead to depression,” said Healey. “Also not knowing what the future can hold and dealing with the unknown can cause a sense of uneasiness.”
4. Need support system
It is difficult to go through anything and come out the other side without people in your life to support you. Whether those are family, friends or even acquaintances, experts believe it’s essential to have a strong network to pull from.
“When we talk to our patients, we try to find out who their support system is,” said Healy. “We see how available those people will be for them and we offer back up support. We understand that it takes a village to help people through their depression from mental health experts to family and friends.”
5. Don’t be afraid to talk to a professional
Exposure to and living through traumatic events has the strong potential to shape a person’s belief, knock us off our equilibrium and rock a person to their core at a fundamental level. That is why reaching out to a psychological expert is important.
“We had an increase in people coming forward during the pandemic and they have reached out to us for help. We did telecommunication and are now able to see people live,” said Pittsley. “We welcome people coming into our doors and our team will help them in any way we can. Part of it is just letting people know there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of.”