By Holly Juurlink / Spoke News
Depression is something most families are familiar with, whether it is because a family member has suffered from it, or a relative or friend. Depression can affect the young or old, people with different ethnic backgrounds and both genders. It can also strike at any point in a person’s life. It has taken children away from their families and parents away from their children, and is not a disability that a person can just see.
According to an article by Dr. Shashi K. Bhatia and Dr. Subash C. Bhatia from Creighton University’s department of psychiatry published in American Family Physician in 2007, “Major depression affects three to five per cent of children and adolescents. It negatively impacts growth development, school performance, and family or friend relationships. Biomedical and psychosocial risk factors include a family history of depression, childhood abuse or neglect, stressful life events and chronic illness.”
Louise Kapner, a 40-year-old woman from London, Ont., is a person who has suffered deeply in her life and feels the effects of depression every day. “When I was five I began to self-harm by picking scabs and anything I could on my body. As I got older I had low self-esteem, and I was bullied and harassed by other kids in my class. I was called ‘dog face’ and
everyone would often leave bones on my desk. When I was 13, I was raped and after that I began cutting, burning myself and pulling my own hair. I had a lot of suicidal thoughts and was ‘locked up’, first in 1994 at age 16, when I tried to commit suicide by overdose and then again at 25. At 25, I was living on my own. I really had no self-care, as I didn’t eat right, shower enough and I would spend most nights awake just watching TV until the early morning. I was working three jobs and it was a really difficult time in my life. I had my first and only complete mental breakdown while at work during this time. It wasn’t until I moved in with my now roommate Laurie that things really changed for me. She taught me self-care, made sure I always had three meals a day and taught me a lot of coping strategies.”
Brianne Hogg, a 20-year-old from London, Ont., has dealt with depression for a lot of her life. “I just remember being 15, starting high school and just being so tired. I didn’t want to get up in the morning for class and I never had the energy to go to work. There were a few weeks when I just couldn’t bring myself to work because I knew it would be agony to just sit there. I started cutting in Grade 7. Probably one of the hardest things I have had to deal with since that time in my life is walking around with a scar on my leg where I carved ‘die.'”
Depression is a life-long condition that can be improved with help from counsellors who provide coping techniques, medication that balance the brain and by changing lifestyle habits.
There are different types of depression such as major depressive disorder, seasonal depression, postpartum depression and bereavement. Major depressive disorder is the most common form and is usually diagnosed when a person feels sad or hopeless for long periods of time in their lives on almost a daily basis. Seasonal depression happens when seasons change or daylight savings time kicks in. According to depressionhurts.ca, “Seasonal affective disorder affects between three and five per cent of Canadian adults.
“Postpartum depression comes after the birth of a child. A woman’s hormone levels change quite fast and may make the new mother feel depressed.
Bereavement is when someone who is close to the person passes away and they grieve for weeks or even months and often feel hopeless towards the situation.
Kapner, now 40 years old, has gotten to a point in her life where she feels a lot happier. “I was taking medication for a long time for my depression and other illnesses and I recently stopped taking them. I have been going to trauma counseling for the last four years for my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and it has helped me immensely. My initial hope with fighting my depression was religion. I also found that talking to my family and friends and my roommate Laurie has helped me so much. I learned many techniques from counselling that I use in my day-to-day life such as scrapbooking, which has helped keep my hands busy and kept me from self-harming as well as breathing exercises and learning how to ‘ground’ myself. The most important thing for me was learning what my triggers were and figuring out how to cope with them.”
“Suicidal thoughts were something I dealt with for a long time.” Hogg said. “It was always a struggle of feeling alone and not wanting to be here anymore. Depression is a really serious thing. I didn’t start to feel better until I was put on medication. Medication is not always the answer for everyone but it really changed my life. “Counselling is another thing that really helped me. Counsellors always make you feel so welcome and I’ve found it’s easier to talk to them than it is to talk to my own family most days.”
Some things to watch out for in loved ones when it comes to depression are emotional symptoms including statements such as “I feel sad all the time” or suicidal thoughts. Other symptoms are physical such as “I can’t get out of bed,” behavioural (“I often feel on the edge and anxious”) and cognitive (“I can’t concentrate on anything.”).
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression and needs help, call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention 613-702-4446.