Life brings with it a roller-coaster ride of emotions. It is expected there are times when we will be happy or sad, angry or giddy, worried or carefree.
There will even be times we feel down.
Imagine being unable to shake that feeling of despair and hopelessness.
For someone suffering from depression — and one in every six people will at some point — that veil of darkness can last days or weeks. It can be so consuming as to affect daily activities such as work or school.
Every 13 minutes, it results in someone dying from suicide.
It’s unfortunate it often takes the death of a high-profile celebrity such as Robin Williams to open the channels of communication about depression. Unfortunate not only because the world has lost a true comedic treasure but also because greater awareness and open discussion of depression is paramount to preventing such tragedies in the future.
Although the stigma once associated with mental health issues is fading, there are still too many people who think depressed people “should just get over it” or should “just think positively.” There are those who won’t bring up their own feelings for fear of being branded with such derogatory labels as “nuts.”
“We need to dispel the ‘cowboys don’t cry’ attitude,” comedian Mel Miller has said.
Part of that is the remnant of a generational mindset. Those most prone to depression and suicide (men age 45 to 64 followed closely by men 85 and older) are from a time when showing emotion or talking about feelings was considered a sign of weakness.
So people with depression put on a mask for those around them. They force a smile, promise everything is all right, or tell a few jokes.
Meanwhile the darkness festers inside. Like a caustic acid, it slowly eats away any sense of hope and well-being.
Some will try to deal with it themselves, relying on self-medicating and sometimes falling victim to addiction. Others will just hope things get better.
Depression is a real and serious health concern. In addition to compounding existing health issues, such as chronic pain, it can lead to fatigue, insomnia, persistent headaches or digestive problems and excessive sleep.
There is hope, though. Almost 80 percent of those who seek treatment for depression get better through a variety of treatments ranging from exercise to medication.
The key is being able to keep it in the forefront and talk about it without shame, prejudice or judgment.
That discussion has started. Let’s keep it open.