Happy December everybody! Many of you are in the holiday spirit and may have started your Christmas music playlists already. I started mine the day after Thanksgiving (don’t judge). For most, this time of year brings warm and fuzzy feelings; however, to some this is the most distressing time of year. Some tend to worry and stress over finances and not having enough to purchase everything on Christmas lists. Others are reminded of lost loved ones who are no longer here during the season that is supposed to be joyous and filled with those we care about the most. Many suffer from depression, especially during the holiday season, and have not found ways to cope.
As a family physician, I see multiple patients every week with depression. Depression is the most common mental health condition in primary care. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2015, over 16 million adults in the U.S. had at least one episode of major depression in the past year. I find it interesting that despite the prevalence of depression, so many people are not being treated. Researchers have found untreated depression to be associated with increased suicidal risks, decreased quality of life, and poor outcomes with co-existing chronic medical problems.
As a Black woman who grew up in the church, seeking help for mental illness was highly stigmatized. I was taught to be strong and “go to God in prayer” when facing obstacles. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of prayer; however, I also know that depression is a serious medical condition and God doesn’t want me to be ignorant. By ignorant I mean uninformed. Many people underestimate their symptoms and feel that they can deal with issues by talking to friends or their pastor. Yes, those things help, but seeking professional medical attention can provide solutions in ways that talking to others may not be able to. I understand that there are many reasons why people don’t seek help such as embarrassment, thinking they can handle it alone, distrust of medical professionals, and so on, but depression is too dangerous NOT so seek help.
We often spend so much time and energy working on our physical appearance, but neglect to take care of ourselves mentally. While you’re planning your New Year’s resolutions and working on a plan to eat healthier and workout more, focus on your mental health, also. If you suffer from depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, or have a hard time dealing with stressful events in life, I urge you to seek help.
If you think you may be suffering from depression, click here for a free online screening. Additionally, feel free to email me if you have any questions. Remember, seeking help does not make you a coward and it does not make you any less strong of a person.
Happy December yall!
John, Jason, et al. Screening for Depression in Adults. In: UpToDate, Post, TW (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2016.