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Kim Miller: Depression can become serious for those who are suffering

Apr. 14, 2013 @ 10:25 PM

Depression can lead to suicide in some people so it’s important to recognize the warning signs. Most everyone experiences periods of depression as a normal part of the ups and downs of everyday life. Feeling down or depressed for an extended period of time is understandable and expected during difficult times. Examples of situations that lead to feeling depressed include when a person is experiencing loneliness, during the months after losing a loved one, during stressful times in life, after experiencing setbacks or disappointments, after a traumatic experience, when there is financial trouble, after a serious health problem is discovered, during periods of unemployment or when physical pain interferes with the enjoyment of everyday life.

People who suffer from severe or “clinical” depression for weeks or months at a time are at highest risk for taking their own life. Desperation to feel less depressed can be overwhelming. Depression can take over a person’s entire life and interfere with their ability to work, go to school, take care of household tasks, maintain relationships with others, and interfere with having fun. When depression interferes with participating in usual activities of everyday life, then it’s a serious problem. If a person feels like their life is not worth living any more, immediate professional help is needed.

Some depressed people describe their life as living in a deep dark black hole. Others might describe depression as feeling lifeless, thinking life is not enjoyable anymore, unavoidable doom and gloom, like they just don’t care anymore or feel empty inside. Some who experience depression may also show more aggressive angry feelings or restlessness. People use the word “depression” to describe a range of feelings but real depression is more than sadness.

Other symptoms commonly experienced during periods of depression include sleeping problems. Sleeping problems might include difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep and/or difficulty with waking up too early. It might be sleeping too much or it might be sleeping not enough. Any change in sleeping patterns could be one symptom of depression. Change in sleep alone does not constitute clinical depression.

Another symptom common to depression is changes in appetite and eating habits. Similar to changes in sleep, changes in eating might be eating too much, more than usual amount, or, not eating much at all (having no appetite). Any changes in appetite and eating patterns might also be caused by depression. Changes in personal hygiene might be noticeable as there might not be as much time and attention given to appearance or cleanliness. Changes in hygiene, appetite or eating patterns alone or in combination do not constitute clinical depression.

Feeling hopeless and helpless when depressed is common. One might say, “I will never get any better.”  “I’ll always feel this badly.”  “Nothing I do ever helps.” “ Why try anymore?” It’s not unusual to also have trouble “thinking,” problems with memory, trouble concentrating and trouble making decisions.

As depression escalates, all of this becomes more severe and intense, symptoms persist or become completely unmanageable and it can seem like there is no way out. Despair and disgust set in as everything begins to close in. Suicide can seem like the only way to get relief, the only way out. Talking about death or suicide is a serious symptom, a cry for help, so take it seriously and get professional help. There is a process by which suicide develops, it’s not usually an unplanned spur-of-the-moment spontaneous decision.

The suicidal process starts with vague thoughts like “people (or I) would be better off if I were dead.” Thoughts can escalate to imagining the morbid like what the funeral would be like, who would come, what would be said and what the body will look like. The suicidal process starts with thoughts.

Next, the suicidal process escalates to plans about how to end life. Thoughts turn to the many ways that people can end their own life, including making death look like an accident. After considering various methods, thoughts turn toward the means to carry out the plans. As the suicidal process escalates, the person begins collecting the supplies necessary to end their life. They also might take other actions like buying life insurance, going to visit others to tell them goodbye or making final arrangements for pets and valuables. As the suicidal process becomes closer to being more lethal, it is important to seek professional help immediately at this stage.

The final stage of the suicidal process is a suicide attempt. If successful, it’s too late for help. It’s true that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It’s best to interrupt the suicidal process as early in the process as possible. The phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-TALK. Store the number in your phone directory so it’s handy.   

Depression rates are double for women than they are for men, however, when men are suffering from depression, they are more likely than women to end their life. Professional counseling can prevent suicide and improve depression. In addition to counseling, it may also be helpful to have a psychiatrist prescribe an antidepressant medication. Many new antidepressants are safe, effective and not habit forming.

Prestera Center offers Putnam County residents access to effective professional mental health and addictions treatment services in Winfield and Hurricane. Offices in Winfield are located at 3389 Winfield Road, Suite 8, on the grounds of the Courthouse Complex (304-586-0670). Offices in Hurricane are called “Hopewell” and are located at 3772 Teays Valley Road (304-757-8475). The Hopewell offices specialize in serving adults with insurance in need of addiction treatment and mental health problems like grief, depression and anxiety or more severe mental health problems. Both offices are accepting new clients and scheduling appointments. Walk-ins are also welcome Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. at the Winfield location.

Kim Miller is the director of Corporate Development at Prestera. She can be reached at kim.miller@prestera.org.