Does Depression Impact You?

October 8 is National Depression Screening Day. Given that we seem to have as many national days as Hallmark can dream up, I usually pay no attention to these. But this year, for reasons we have been reading about in this paper in recent months, I am making note of October 8 because this has been a year in which so many people have struggled. Here in the Vail Valley, over the past year, there has been approximately one suicide a week. Not all of these are reported, but the fact remains, this is something we need to all pay attention to. This is a small valley and the fact that people in this beautiful place find life so unbearable that they make the choice to end it is incomprehensible. And yet they do.

Depression affects all of us, directly or indirectly. All of us need to know that:

Clinical depression is a serious medical illness.
Clinical depression can lead to suicide.
Sometimes people with depression mistakenly believe that the symptoms of depression are a "normal part of life."
Clinical depression affects men and women of all ages, races and socioeconomic groups.
One in four women and one in 10 men will experience depression at some point during their lifetimes.
Two-thirds of those suffering from the illness do not seek the necessary treatment.
Depression can co-occur and complicate other medical conditions.
More than 80 percent of all cases of clinical depression can be effectively treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both.
Screenings are often the first step in getting help.

Let me tell you a story about a woman who was helped by Dr. Randy Simmonds at the Samaritan Counseling Center. This woman grew up in a proper family, solidly middle class America, and like many of us, she had a father who was so busy at work that he did not play a role in the family. Her mother was trying her best, but the children were difficult, money was tight and she was lonely and depressed. Child number 2 had some pretty serious adjustment disorders, and let his rage out on child number 3, our client. He would hit her hard every time he passed her in the hallway, he would go in and destroy everything in her room if she made him mad enough, and as the years passed, he would come into her room at night and do unspeakable things to her. This girl grew up in a very unsafe world, but she was bright and resourceful, so she did well in school and grew up to finish graduate school and have a successful career in the business world. But beneath her facade, she was horribly alone, experiencing depression and that constant feeling of I'm not ok and nobody will ever love me. Over several years of counseling, and after having had her own child and coming to understand to the extent to which her parents had failed her, she began to realize that she had been living in a cloud of clinical depression her entire life. She began taking antidepressants after she became convinced that she could not just get a gripĀ on her own. Suddenly, a world that had always been dark and gloomy became sunny. With the healing of her childhood trauma, she found spiritual healing as well at the Samaritan Counseling Center. She learned that even when she still occasionally fell into the dark pit of depression, God was always there for her to pull her out. She never felt alone again. In her situation, medication and counseling were what was needed to allow her to experience life to its fullest. She thinks she will need to stay on medication the rest of her life, and she knows she will need to check back with Dr. Randy Simmonds at the Center to clean out a closet,as she likes to say, but through intervention and some hard work, she now lives a full life.

Like our client, people suffering from depression often experience some of these key symptoms:

A persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
Sleeping too little, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much
Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
Restlessness or irritability
Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
Fatigue or loss of energy
Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression can also appear as anger and discouragement, rather than as feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. If depression is very severe, there may also be psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. These symptoms may focus on themes of guilt, inadequacy, or disease.

Clinical depression, like heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes, is treatable. It is a common medical illness affecting more than 19 million American adults each year. On-line depression screening is available on different websites, such as More importantly, help is available. Depression can be treated in a variety of ways, particularly with medications and counseling. Most people benefit from a combination of the two treatments. Some studies have shown that antidepressant drug therapy combined with psychotherapy has better results than either therapy alone.

We all know that it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle:

To avoid alcohol and drugs (which make depression worse and may interfere with medications)
To eat well-balanced meals
To get regular exercise and sleep
To seek supportive relationships

Perhaps because many of us are able to maintain this lifestyle most of the time, we feel like we should be happy. God knows, we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

If you or someone you love suffers from depression, get help!

When to contact a doctor

Call 911, a suicide hotline, or get safely to a nearby emergency room if you have thoughts of suicide, a suicidal plan, or thoughts of harming yourself or others.

Call your doctor or a mental health professional right away if:

You hear voices that are not there.
You have frequent crying spells with little or no provocation.
You have had feelings of depression that disrupt work, school, or family life for longer than 2 weeks.
You think that one of your current medications may be making you feel depressed. DO NOT change or stop any medications without consulting your doctor.
You believe that you should cut back on drinking, a family member or friend has asked you to cut back, you feel guilty about the amount of alcohol you drink, or you drink alcohol first thing in the morning.