“For some, the holidays are a distraction from problems. It’s normal to feel deflated when January rolls around and the holidays are over,” said Hiedi Roberts, CSW-PIP, Avera Behavioral Health Outpatient Manager.
However, depression is more than just feeling let down or sad. Though it’s common to skirt depression as something that’s “all in your head,” it is an ongoing, chronic illness that can significantly impact a person’s health and everyday life in a negative way.
Symptoms may include feelings of sadness, worthlessness or hopelessness, sleeping more or less, weight loss or weight gain, headaches, substance abuse (including alcohol), and lack of interest in things once enjoyed.
To be classified as depression, a combination of symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.
“You know when you’re not feeling like yourself, and family members typically notice a change, too,” said Roberts. “In some cases, loved ones may see something different before the individual does.”
Another major concern of severe depression is thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
If you’re concerned for a person’s safety or overall well-being, Chris Pudwill, LCSW, MSW, Avera Behavioral Health Social Worker advises a direct approach. “Ask them, ‘Are you thinking about committing suicide?’ The answer may surprise you. Some people will be very honest and answer ‘yes.’”
Not every depressed person considers suicide. For some, it’s a fleeting thought. Others may think about it more often.
If you suspect a loved one may have symptoms of depression or thoughts about suicide, don’t overreact. Listen with a nonjudgmental attitude so that he or she can express themselves openly and honestly. Do not minimize statements about self-harm or suicide.
It’s also imperative to connect him or her to a mental health professional as soon as possible. Show your support by going along to the appointment.
Depression is commonly treated through cognitive-behavioral therapy. In this safe setting, the therapist and patient identify negative thoughts and behavioral patterns, and work toward a more balanced lifestyle.
“Some individuals may also use antidepressants to complement talk therapy services,” said Roberts. “We also work to identify a support system outside the office. Also, the client will work toward building positive coping strategies.”
If you have depression, you don’t have to face it alone. Avera therapists and professionals are ready to help. Visit Avera.org/behavioral-health-center to find a provider near you.
Help Yourself When Feeling Low
Eat a healthy diet
Call a friend and make plans
Volunteer at an animal shelter
Engage in an activity you love each day for 20 minutes
Set small, positive goals each week