Screen for Depression during Financial Stress and Economic Crisis

October 10th is National Depression Screening Day.

The current economic and financial crisis has created increased pressure on all of us. As many struggle with the uncertainty of whether or not they will continue to have a job, others deal with the challenges of laying people off, many of whom may have been colleagues and friends. With stress reaching epidemic numbers, many struggle with staying healthy during rough times. Stress affects the most vulnerable systems: some people will experience frequent migraine headaches, whereas others will develop gastrointestinal problems, and others will have high blood pressure. Stress may trigger panic attacks in some people and will affect others with clinical depression.

Depression is common, affecting one in ten adults each year and twice as many women as men. Depression is a serious medical illness that negatively impacts how we think, how we feel, and how we behave. When we feel down or sad, our perception of the world becomes gloomy. Many experience depression with little hope for the future and doubt that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Depression has a variety of symptoms, but the most common are a deep feeling of sadness or a marked loss of interest or pleasure in activities that we used to enjoy. Other symptoms include neuro-vegetative symptoms: significant changes in our appetite and sleep. In addition to experiencing sadness or loss of interest, you may experience some of the following symptoms if you experience clinical depression:

• Changes in appetite that result in weight loss or weight gain

• Lack of sleep or over sleeping

• Loss of energy or increased fatigue

• Restlessness or irritability

• Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt

• Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions

• Thoughts of death or suicide or attempts at suicide

How can I get help?

1) Recognize you are experiencing depression: Depression is a treatable condition but the first step is to be aware that you may be experiencing depression. The National Depression Screening Day offers sites where you can be tested by volunteers. You may also take an online test although nothing beats the face-to-face.

2) Learn about depression: You can search for information at the National Institutes of Health website. The NIH is the largest research organization in the world. You will find additional information at the American Psychiatric Association’s site.

3) Look for help: Tell your primary care doctor or your gynecologist that you believe you are depressed. As a college student, tell your student’s health provider. As a parent, if you are concerned about your child being depressed, speak with your pediatrician or with the school nurse. Tell them you are concerned and that you want help.

4) Live a healthy lifestyle: The more you can maximize your physical health by exercising, eating healthy, sleeping well and using relaxation techniques (The Four Pillars of Physical Health), the easier it will be to bounce back during hard times. On the other hand, clinical depression is a serious medical condition and many people have already tried their best to maximize their lifestyle. If this is the case,

5) Seek for professional expert help: People who are living healthy lifestyles and experiencing clinical depression will benefit from using one or a combination of psychotherapy and medication therapy in addition to their lifestyle healthy strategies. Studies show that the combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy with medication therapy may be best to treat moderate to severe depression. Treatment works.

6) Keep a positive outlook: Depression is treatable. Although it may take 4-6 weeks to experience the best effects from medication, many people start to experience positive effects much earlier. If you feel like the treatment is not working, go to your doctor and share your expectations.

7) Support your family and friends with depression: Get involved in assisting your spouse, family or friend as he or she works on becoming healthy. Learn about depression to better understand this condition and its impact upon the home and the workplace.

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