Wendy Rhyason, MA Counselling
Executive Director, FCSS
What do you call it when all you feel is pain?
When your loved ones look at you and all you feel is shame?
What do you call it when the hurt is in your soul?
When you smile and you laugh but it’s all a show?
What do you call it when you’ve hit your all time low?
When nothing makes you happy and the darkness grows?*
This powerful poem was written by a teen suffering from depression and it describes what many people feel when they are in the depth of this illness. Can you hear the despair? Can you feel her pain? Depression affects millions of Canadians and no one is immune. It is a debilitating illness that affects people emotionally and physically. Some of the signs of depression are:
- Feelings of hopelessness.
- Loss of interest in daily activities.
- Appetite or weight changes.
- Sleep changes.
- Anger or irritability.
- Loss of energy.
- Reckless behavior.
- Concentration problems.
- Unexplained aches and pains.
Clinical depression is a medical condition, similar to diabetes or heart disease. In Canada, 11.3% (3.9 million) of people suffer from depression compared to 6.8% that suffer from diabetes. However, unlike diabetes, people suffering from depression are often afraid to seek help because of the stigma associated with the illness.
Depression is not a character flaw. It is caused by genetic, biological, social and environmental factors. Dr. Daniela Schreier, a clinical psychologist in Chicago wrote, “Severe depression is not like catching a cold or having a bad day, it gradually gets worse over a lifetime if not treated. It’s not something you can shake off, you learn to manage it.”
A recent survey in the United States by the National Mental Health Association reported 43% of Americans believe depression is a result of a weak will or a deficit in one’s character. This misconception about depression can cause insensitivity and add to the pain experienced by the depressed person. Can you imagine how it feels to be told to “suck it up” “get over it” or “just smile”? For people already experiencing deep pain, hopelessness and isolation, these comments would drive them further into the darkness. Would you tell a person with cancer or diabetes to “suck it up” or “just smile”? No. Treat a depressed person with the same respect and concern you would extend to someone suffering from cancer or diabetes.
How can you help a depressed person?
- Encourage them to get help. The most effective treatment is a combination of anti-depressant drugs and therapy.
- Be direct. Ask if they’re considering suicide. Take them to the hospital if they are suicidal or having hallucinations or delusions.
- Listen and provide a shoulder to cry on.
- Be patient. People with depression aren’t lazy. Everyday activities like cleaning house, cooking, or laundry can seem overwhelming.
- Educate yourself. There are numerous sites on the Internet where you can learn about depression.
- Take care of yourself. Feeling angry or frustrated is normal. Find a support group, friend or therapist to voice your feelings.
If you’re suffering from depression, seeking and accepting help is a sign of strength. Take back your life. For more information or help with depression contact the FCSS office to access resources or see one of our counsellors.
*Source: adapted from Family Friend Poems.