Depression: A Serious Disease

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I had a different idea for today’s blog, but my heart is heavy after learning about the loss of two people to depression and suicide in less than 24 hours.

One is a Hollywood legend that touched the lives of millions around the world with his laughter, insight into character and engaging personality (Robin Williams). The other was a young man, barely in his twenties. A beloved son with his entire life ahead of him.

But depression doesn’t discriminate. It knows no bounds. Age, sex, race, status… It doesn’t matter.
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And depression isn’t something a person can merely “get over.” Or “set aside.” Or even worse, “just suck it up.”

For the person struggling with the disease, life can seem worthless. They feel lost, alone. The lows can be abysmal, with no light to reach for evident.
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For family members, it can be difficult as they struggle to understand the depths of the disease and how it affects their loved one.

Depression is not something to take lightly. To brush off. To dismiss as a weakness. It’s an evil disease. It takes lives. It leaves families shattered.
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If you or a loved one, a neighbor or co-worker…if anyone you come in contact with shows signs of depression, don’t let it slide. Instead, find the name and number of a local crisis center. Learn about the resources available and share that information. All it could take is for that person struggling to know that someone cares, that help is available. That they are worth it. That life can be a beautiful gift. That their life is a beautiful gift.

So please, look up that number and jot it down, add it to your phone contacts, share it with others.

And today, remember to hug your children and let them know they mean the world to you. Tell your spouse you love him or her. Call your mom and dad, sister and brother, grandmother and aunt. Email your favorite teacher. Text your best friend. Smile at the person in line at the bank or grocery store. Share a joke with a co-worker.

You never know when you have the chance to be the ray of sunshine in someone’s day.
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Resources to consider:

http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/help-for-depression#TreatmentFacts1

http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depresssion-support

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Comments (34)

  • Avatar

    conniefischer

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    Thank you for posting this today. My son and I were just saying how sad it is when someone is depressed and needs help. I believe the young Oregon mother who disappeared and was later found dead must have been depressed as well. What a terrible loss. I hope that people out there who are feeling down will reach out to someone for help. Bless them.

    Reply

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      prisakiss

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      Connie, it’s good to hear that you and your son were having a conversation about this. Talking about the issue before it becomes a problem, sharing awareness of it with others, is an important step in beating the disease.

      I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us!

      Reply

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    Kieran

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    I’m so sorry about your friend. We recently lost a 17-year-old friend to suicide. It’s so devastating. This was a great post. If there is to be any silver lining from Robin Williams’s death, I hope it’s that anyone who’s depressed will reach out today for help.

    Reply

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      prisakiss

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      Amen, Kieran! If someone who needs it gets help today, I believe Robin will be smiling from above.

      Reply

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    natmegevans

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    HI Pris

    I do think that those of us who do not experience depression struggle to understand what it entails. I’ve experienced it within my own family and know how prolonged and suffocating it can be. When suicide is involved, the pain devolves on to family left behind. It would be so much better if there were more crisis centres, and people know how to access them. A timely post, Pris.

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      prisakiss

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      Natalie, I’m sorry to hear about your family’s experience with depression. You’re right, it affects everyone– the individual with the disease and all those around him/her.

      I hope people look into their local crisis centers and take note of the phone number. You never know when you’ll need it.

      Thanks for stopping by. I hope you have a blessed day!

      Reply

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    B Irwin

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    Medication is often needed & we need to end the stigma surrounding asking for help. If there’s no shame in needing chemo to save a life, why should asking for help with depression be a problem?

    Reply

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      prisakiss

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      You’re absolutely right about ending the stigma, B. Far too many people see depression as a weakness rather than a disease.

      Asking help, seeking out a therapist, taking medication… to me they’re all signs of someone smart enough to know they can’t do something alone. Smart enough to recognize the importance of getting help.

      If we could eradicate the stigma, we’d go a long way in getting people the help they need.

      Reply

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    shanagalen

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    I agree with B Irwin. We need to break the stigma around medication for depression. It can be treated. Sorry for your loss, Priss. Like most of America, I was also saddened to learn Robin Williams is gone.

    Reply

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      prisakiss

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      Thanks, Shana. As sad as I am about this loss, I keep thinking about the family and how difficult this is for them.

      I’m keeping them in my prayers, hoping for the strength to get through this.

      Reply

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    bevp

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    Depression is a devastating disease and sometimes it’s difficult to see when someone is suffering with it. The analogy to drowning is very helpful. Thank you for the post.

    Reply

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      prisakiss

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      When I saw the drowning analogy picture, it really tugged at my heart. The sense of helplessness this young man must have felt, the disparity Robin Williams must have been experiencing– I can only imagine.

      Depression isn’t easy to spot. I know it’s easy to get caught up in our daily hustle and bustle. But these events have really made me stop to consider, am I going through life on autopilot, unaware of the little signs those around me may be showing? I hope not.

      I appreciate you stopping by, bevp.

      Reply

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    tamrabaumann

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    Pris,

    I’m sorry about your friend. Thank you for the reminder today to look for the signs in others and to go that extra mile to reach out. Often very funny people are the most fragile, but they mask it so well it’s hard to spot. And sharing a smile I line at the bank is always my motto, too. ( I enjoyed sharing some smiles with you in San Antonio!!!)

    Reply

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      prisakiss

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      Yes, we shared some fun, nonverbal communication during dinner or a presentation in San Antonio.

      It’s those little connections that can help someone, without us even knowing it.

      It doesn’t take much to brighten someone’s day, even for a few moments. It’s just remembering to take the time to do so.

      Hugs, Tamra!

      Reply

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    Sandy Kenny

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    I have been on both sides of the depression scales. It is painful to truly witness someone suffering; it is utterly devastating to experience that drowning, choking feeling. We all need to be more aware of those around us who are not behaving “quite themselves”. And while it is nice to cheer someone up (and believe me, I am all for it!), it needs to be understood that depression is a chemical disorder that needs to be treated as such. That photo of the person drowning is spot on, and we should be more aware of those who suffer from this chronic problem. People who are in the deep throes of depression cannot just “ask for help” or “tell someone”. It’s like asking that drowning person why he doesn’t just swim to the top and grab the life preserver.

    Reply

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      prisakiss

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      Sandy,

      Thank you so much for providing this insight into the disease.

      I’ve heard someone say, “I can’t believe the person didn’t just ask for help.” Yet, while I haven’t suffered from depression, or deep depression, I think I understand on some level how difficult it must be. And how, the person who is at their end, by that time, really just can’t comprehend that help is available. The disease has taken over their psyche.

      “Just asking for help” isn’t so simple.

      It’s trying to recognize the symptoms in yourself before the disease gets too strong. Or, it’s really paying attention to your loved ones and those around you for any signs that they might be struggling with something.

      That’s why it’s important for all of us to educate ourselves. Because we never know when that knowledge will be needed so we can help someone who needs it.

      I appreciate you sharing your insight with us!

      Reply

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    Jean Willett

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    I’m so sorry about your friend, Pris. It is tough. Three siblings [friends of my sons] committed suicide over a period of ten years. Their one remaining brother was devastated and vowed to make a change for his life. Their parents ignored the issues.

    Our son suffers and has for a long time. We learned about it in high school. Until then, we were unaware. I’ve learned a lot through the years. Depression is a cycle. There are good times and low times. All the time, they wear a mask when inside they are drowning or full of anxiety. We’ve found that a cognitive behavior therapist was our salvation. It’s still a daily flag that waves wildly at times, but overall, so far, we’re good. It’s not easy on anyone around them, especially family members.
    By law, all counseling professionals have to ask the question, “Do you sometimes feel like committing suicide?” It’s an awful, awful feeling to sit in a session and always know at the back of my mind, that one day….I could lose my child. I never think it, I’m always hyper-aware and can tell by the tone of his voice sometimes. We’ve weathered many storms, but when times are good, he’s almost happy. It’s great and exhausting at the same time.

    A psychiatrist friend once said to him in a general discussion that suicide was the easy way out and it provides a good example for your children of how to handle their problems. I was appalled, then understood that he used the shock of his statement when he deals with adults who don’t want help.

    One thing I always remember is that when a person is in depression, they can’t *hear* you. You have to break through the thought circle they’re caught in before anyone can help them come out of the depths.

    Robin William’s death is devastating for his family, his children and his fans. There are no words. I hope it brings attention to such a devastating disease.

    Reply

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      prisakiss

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      Wow, Jean, I’m so thankful that you shared your family’s experience with depression. Hearing how difficult the disease is for those afflicted as well as their family members is important to help raise awareness.

      Like you said, if Robin Williams’ death can bring any awareness to this disease, it will be a light in the midst of all this darkness.

      Reply

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    Colette Auclair

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    Pris, Thank you for this post. Robin Williams made me think about how seemingly brilliant comedians hide their pain behind humor, just because it feels like there are so many who take their own lives.
    And thank you for your compassion and call for people to be mindful. I have had my bouts of depression, never terribly severe (I am thankful for that, and I had a lovely therapist), but it’s a lonely place to be.
    On a happier note, I love the thought of being someone’s ray of sunshine. I’ve become better about going up to strangers and telling them if I like their dress, etc. Because yes, it could be THE ray of sunshine in that particular day, and what a pity if I kept my mouth shut. Plus it makes ME feel better.

    Reply

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      prisakiss

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      Colette, therapy can be an invaluable tool in helping us get through life’s ups and downs. I can honestly say a good therapist has and continues to be an important part of my sanity-keeping arsenal.

      I know that a simple smile isn’t enough to help a person who is in severe depression. It’s not that simple. Medicine, cognitive behavior therapy and other more scientific and professional measures are needed.

      But I speak from experience when I say that there are times when I’ve felt overwhelmed with life or something negative going on that day and a simple hello or a compliment from a stranger, an encouraging word or smile from someone else has given me pause. And many times that pause has been enough to allow me to take a breath, alter my mindset a tiny bit and remind myself that all is not lost.

      Whether it’s a grand gesture like an intervention for someone in dire need or a random act of kindness toward a stranger…it’s taking note of those around you. Appreciating them and doing what you can to let them know that you do. That’s what I think anyway. 🙂

      Reply

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    dianegaston

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    Pris, there are so many wonderful, thoughtful, comments here.
    Before I was a romance author I was a mental health therapist in a specialized county mental health program for people 65 and older. Depression is common in the elderly, so we saw a lot of people suffering from depression.
    We’ve known for years that the best treatment for depression is both antidepressant medication and psychotherapy. Sometimes it takes trying different kinds of medication or different therapists or both before the treatment is right for a person.
    So I would say to anyone who is depressed to keep trying treatment and don’t be afraid to change to a different psychiatrist or therapist until you find the one you want.
    Unfortunately there is still a stigma about being treated for “mental illness” and that prevents many people from seeking help.
    And, even more unfortunately, sometimes depression is fatal.

    Reply

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      prisakiss

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      Diane, thanks for sharing your professional insight with us!

      The stigma of having a “mental illness” or of needing help to fix what too many don’t see as a “real problem” is one of the most important problems we need to break.

      Like you’ve said, this is a serious problem. A serious medical problem.

      My hope would be that as the issue is discussed more that will lead to a larger acceptance of the fact that depression is not a choice.

      Rather, it’s a sickness that requires professional help. To stop it from becoming something fatal.

      Reply

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    Jamie D.

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    Thank you for this thoughtful blog post, Pris. I’m one of the ones who’s spent most of my life (roughly since age 5) drowning while all around me, people are breathing. At times when it’s merely “mild,” I’m able to wear a mask that allows me to function socially, but it’s exhausting work. Recently I suffered an autoimmune illness that has somehow “reset” my brain chemistry after 40-odd years. None of the doctors can really explain it. The autoimmune illness is long-lasting with a lot of bad side effects, but this one aspect–inexplicable easing of my chronic depression–has opened my eyes to what it’s like to NOT be depressed…and I could never go back. Depression, even mild, leeches one’s life of quality. So I’m prepared that if the depression ever comes back, I have a new, brave plan of treatment that I will immediately turn to without hesitation. Until then, I’m able to effectively weather the autoimmune illness much easier with the relieving of depression. I feel like I can handle anything thrown at me, just as long as it’s not that old familiar “brain flu” (as a most astute friend of mine has labeled it). Quite simply, nothing is more crippling, nothing sadder. Educating ourselves is the first step in battling depression, and always, always compassion, not just for those suffering the disease but for the loved ones who often stand by feeling so helpless.

    Reply

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      prisakiss

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      Jamie,

      It’s wonderful to hear that you’ve got a plan to help you deal with the depression should it descend again. My prayers are with you as you deal with the autoimmune illness, that must be difficult in itself.

      “Brain flu”– interesting label. I’ve felt out of sorts and sad since yesterday morning when I first learned about my co-workers son. I can’t even begin to imagine the severity of the “brain flu” that young man and Robin Williams must have been experiencing. And now, like you said, their family members are left to deal with the ripple effects of the illness.

      Hang in there, dear friend, and know that I’m here if ever need me. {{{{HUGS}}}}

      Reply

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    Arely Z.

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    I was so heartbroken to hear about Robin Williams. There was a quote that I read that said “Robin Williams made everyone happy but himself.” and I felt like it was the saddest thing ever.

    He was an amazing actor and even better person and I hope that he is finally happy wherever he is.

    Reply

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      prisakiss

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      I hope so too, Arely. I really do!

      Reply

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    bethtrissel

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    A vital, and sadly, timely post. Thanks for doing this.

    Reply

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      prisakiss

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      Depression and suicide are such tragic topics, but important ones for us not to let get brushed under our carpets. Thanks for helping to spread the word about our blog, Beth!

      Reply

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    Migdalia Hettler

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    Pris, very powerful message and so true. We need to be more conscious of the people that sorround us. One nice word, one nice action can make a difference in someone’s day.
    Sending my love, hugs and blessings to all the people that read my daughter’s blog. Pris, Jackie, JD, Joe and all my wonderful and beautiful grandchildren …I LOVE YOU! ???

    Reply

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    Wendy

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    Did someone request a wingman? I’m here Jenna. Never too early. Never too late. Nothing too small or too big. Anytime at all 🙂

    Reply

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    lisaliggett

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    Awesome article. I think one of the issues with depression going untreated is that people simply don’t believe you when you say that you’re not coping and could be depressed – this is especially the case if you are the type of person that is normally very capable and in control.

    Reply

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      prisakiss

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      Lisa, I agree! When someone is normally upbeat, on-the-ball and any number of other “I’ve got this” personality traits, others might not understand that those behaviors could be masking other feelings of inadequacy or sadness.

      As I’ve said, my hope is that as this disease and its many manifestations are made more public, more people will seek help and more people will listen when someone reaches out to them.

      It’s a serious illness that can’t be taken lightly.

      Reply

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    lisaliggett

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    I don’t think my upbeatness masked depression – its what I’m like normally. For me my bout was simply the result of absolute exhaustion and feeling that there was absolutely no support to help me out of it. Fortunately I had a book on Depression and was able to do a test online, which actually confirmed that I was indeed severely anxious and depressed. From there I actually started demanding support rather than just thinking it was something that would be nice to have. My concern however, is the thought of all those people out there who wouldn’t even think to do a test online or have books simply sitting on their shelf, and who then slip further and further into the mire to the place where they cant make the right decisions to get out of the hole. Socially the support is often not there and people don’t realize how serious the problem is – they may listen but they just dismiss it all as being part of parenting which will ease up as the kids age and you get more sleep. People also just think of depression as simply being sad when it can be so much more – irritability, anxiety, anger, lethargy, being distant emotionally are just some of the things many people would never link with depression.

    Reply

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