Not a day goes by that you don’t hear news about celebrities suffering from depression, it almost feels like an epidemic. But actually, the real numbers are far worse than one might think. The National Institute of Mental Health offers some surprising figures, estimating that 18.8 million Americans suffer from some from depression, which translates to nearly one out of every ten people.
Unfortunately, the negative stigma surrounding depression and mental health concerns keeps many people from seeking treatment until the depression has become debilitating. They are embarrassed at their negative thoughts and pass off their continually depressed moods as simple bouts of crankiness. I know I did until my life fell apart as I struggled to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning or complete simple tasks. Even then, realizing I had a problem, I struggled to accept that my depressed thoughts and emotions could have a physical connection and require medication. Though many people accept medical treatment for injuries and colds, they do not accept its viability to treat mental conditions. Though science continues to advance and improve its understanding of depression and the physical factors of mental health, so much stigma still persists. While depression certainly isn’t something to be happy about, there is no need to be embarrassed about it or avoid seeking treatment. It is a widespread and well-documented condition. People need to be educated about the prevalence of depression and encouraged to seek out treatment through both counseling and medical professionals before it gets to the point that it interferes so dramatically with their lives.
The first step in treating depression is recognizing that you have it and acknowledging that you are struggling with more than just a bad mood and that this is something serious that needs to be dealt with seriously. If you are unsure if you suffer from depression, you may want to take any of various online surveys to see if your negative thoughts and behaviors indicate depression.
Secondly, you need to reach out to someone you trust and tell them that you are struggling with depression. For me, this was a major breakthrough and necessary in my recovery. Some people may be able to shake depression on their own, but it will be a lot easier with the support of a close friend or family member. Sharing your struggle with someone else solidifies the first step, really confirming and holding you accountable for the fact that you are dealing with a real condition and provides the accountability to stick with seeking out treatment. It also allows you to get feedback and observations from someone on the outside who can see your situation more clearly and provide valuable perspective both on the things that might be stressing you out and on the way your depression is influencing your behavior.
Third, I believe it is beneficial to look into professional help, both in terms of counseling and medical treatment. Depression (and mental health in general) is a complicated and multifaceted condition. Some people respond better to counseling others to medication, most respond best to a combination of the two. Doctors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals have so much knowledge and experience regarding the treatment of depression that they really can help you recover.
Depression is not something anyone has to live with. And it is not something anyone needs to wait to seek treatment for until it becomes debilitating. As with any other illness, seek help at the first sign of symptoms. It will make treatment that much easier.