“When cancer sufferers fight, recover, and go into remission we laud their bravery. We call them survivors. Because they are. When depression sufferers fight, recover and go into remission we seldom even know, simply because so many suffer in the dark…ashamed to admit something they see as a personal weakness…afraid that people will worry, and more afraid that they won’t. We find ourselves unable to do anything but cling to the couch and force ourselves to breathe.” –the Bloggess
Nearly all of us can remember a time when we’ve felt dark, overwhelming depression. The cause was something obvious that happened in our life: the death of a loved one, divorce, or unemployment.
For many, though, depression comes when everything seems to be going well. Sufferers experience one or more “episodes” per year, or know it as an ongoing, never-ending sadness. When experiencing depression, it’s easy to lose hope that things will ever improve.
Major depression—the kind with no cause—is unfortunately common, affecting 1 in every 10 Americans. That number grows by 20 percent each year, and even though it is one of the most well researched disorders, it’s one of the least talked about.
We live in a country that has no problem discussing the breakdown of our bodies, but goes silent when it comes to talking about what is perceived as mental weakness. Sufferers are afraid to get help because they don’t want anyone to know they have depression. In fact, 80 percent of people living with depression are not receiving treatment. Ironically, many hide their condition behind exuberant personalities.
Depression has become a worldwide health epidemic, and until we recognize and admit that it is a serious problem, this will not change.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, over 60 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If alcoholics who are depressed are included, this rises to more than 75 percent. (Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65 years in the United States.) For many depressed people, it is a daily choice to continue living.
How you can help
Learn about it
There are a lot of great resources online to learn more about depression, and what it feels like to be depressed. One of my favorites is this TED talk from a comic named Kevin Breel. He is an activist for mental health who bravely talks about what it’s like to hide his illness behind a public persona as someone who is outgoing and funny.
People are fighting this battle alone. Let’s not shy away from the topic of depression—you never know who is affected. Be a light for those living in darkness. First, recognize when someone needs professional help, and find resources so they can get it. You can also be a huge help by arranging an activity to get them out of the house. But most of all, be a good listener and learn how to be truly empathetic.
To help raise awareness for Major Depression and provide resources for those who need help, give to organizations working in this field:
- Suicide Hotlines provide much-needed support for people at risk for suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is a 24-hour toll-free number for people around the country. Donate Now >>
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance operates a support hotline, conducts more than 700 support groups nationwide, and offers interactive online resources. Donate Now >>
- The largest grassroots organization for mental illness, the National Alliance on Mental Illness is committed to raising awareness. It advocates for access to services, treatment, support, and research. Donate Now >>
- Vincent House is a Florida nonprofit that actively works with people recovering from mental illness, helping them develop job skills. Donate Now >>
It’s a time of year, after a holiday high, when many are looking forward to what they can accomplish in the next year. At the same time, others are down about what their reality is—feeling empty and low. Help break the stigma: don’t ignore the topic. And if you need help, please don’t be afraid to ask for it.
—Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager