Dear Community Reach Center:
What advice do you have to educate family members and friends - who are opposed to medication for depression and favor a "just-tough-it-out" approach - that medication is an effective tool in conjunction with therapy?
When a friend or family member - or perhaps yourself - is dealing with depression, it can be very challenging. The challenge becomes greater when there is a resistance to securing the appropriate professional help.
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, and this can prevent people from taking action to address their symptoms and move toward recovery.
Although many of us may experience periods of sadness, a diagnosable major depressive episode lasts at least two weeks and impacts a person's ability to work, carry out usual daily activities and to have satisfying personal relationships.
Depression affects 6.8 percent of U.S. adults in any given year and one-tenth will experience a mood disorder in their lifetime. An interesting study comparing the impact of mental illness versus physical illness shows that the degree of disability from mild depression is similar to that of epilepsy, moderate depression to multiple sclerosis and severe depression to paraplegia.
We would never expect someone with diabetes or heart disease to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps," yet when it comes to seeking treatment for mental health issues, this is at times the expectation.
Some suggested first steps for professional treatment can include, seeing a therapist, talking with your primary care physician, meeting with a psychiatrist and support groups.
Resistance to taking medications is not uncommon. However, antidepressant medications are proven effective in treating depression, especially in conjunction with therapy. Antidepressants help alleviate symptoms, but also work on neurotransmitters that influence both physical and psychological symptoms.
If your loved one is hesitant to taking medications, perhaps encourage a consultation with their PCP or a psychiatrist to inquire about what options are available, possible side effects and answer any other questions.
Meeting with a doctor does not mean they will have to take the medications, but one can at least get the information needed to make an informed decision. Numerous myths surround medications, but they are not addictive, they do not change your personality and the newer medications have few side effects. Lastly, please remember that with appropriate treatment, recovery is possible, and there is hope.
Jennifer Morris, MA, LPC, is a therapist at Community Reach Center and is working as the Disaster Response Coordinator and School-Based Mental Health Specialist. She has been with CRC since 1999 and has managed a variety of programs including School-Based Therapy and Outpatient.
This column is for educational purposes only, and opinions are not those of this Colorado Community Media. Answers are not specific to any individual and are not a substitute for regular or urgent medical consultation and treatment. To learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in Adams County, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500.