Recognize Symptoms of Depression and Encourage Treatment
Depression can strike anyone — from a burly construction worker to a quiet librarian to an assertive CEO of a major corporation. In any given one-year period, roughly 19 million American adults suffer from depression. Looked at another way, chances are strong that among fifteen of your friends, fifteen of your coworkers, and fifteen of your neighbors, one member of each group is experiencing symptoms of depression—a common and potentially serious illness that drastically affects quality of life.
Sadly, about half of those exhibiting symptoms of depression fail to seek help, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Some do not recognize the signs of depression. Others figure the symptoms of depression will just go away on their own. Many depression sufferers are too embarrassed to go to a doctor or a psychiatrist. They worry that they are making something out of nothing or that people will look down upon them as strange or incompetent.
The good news is that depression is highly treatable if the person who is experiencing symptoms of depression gets professional help. But since so many people who need help for depression are unable or unwilling to seek assistance on their own, it is up to caring people like you to let them know that they do not have to suffer in silence.
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Learn the symptoms of depression. Two key areas to consider are:
Other possible signs of depression include:
If you notice someone who is exhibiting symptoms of depression, ask the person how he is feeling and explain why you are concerned. Realize that you cannot diagnose the problem or offer treatment options, but you can be part of a support system. Tell the person that he is valued and deserves to feel better. Listen without passing judgment. Recommend that he discuss depression with his doctor and offer to accompany him to the first appointment. It may not be the easiest conversation you'll ever have, but it might be one of the most worthy. And whether or not the person chooses to take your advice, keep checking-in with him on a regular basis and extending invitations to partake in social activities so that he will feel he belongs.
Make others aware of the National Mental Health Association's confidential depression-screening test. While the test is not intended to diagnose depression, it can help someone experiencing possible signs of depression to be more aware of the condition and to seek professional help. Make signs to post in employee washrooms, the library, the community center, and your place of worship. On the bottom of each sign, cut several strips with the web address on it so that interested parties can discreetly tear off a strip to slip into a pocket or purse.
If your company or an organization you belong to publishes a newsletter, forward this article to the person in charge with a note asking him or her to consider putting information on the symptoms of depression in a future publication.
Check your company's medical insurance for its coverage of mental health issues. Photocopy all pertinent information and post it on workplace bulletin boards. A person experiencing symptoms of depression may be more likely to seek help if she knows where to go and if she can plainly see that depression is considered a "real" medical problem.
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