(BPT) - There are more than 19 million adults in the United States living with depression and many more people could be suffering but are unaware that what they are feeling is depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This common and treatable illness affects people from all walks of life and can significantly interfere with a person’s behavior, physical health and interaction with others.
The more you know about depression, the more likely you are to be able to help yourself or help others. While great strides have been made in recent years to educate the public about depression and reduce stigma surrounding mental illness, many myths still remain about the condition.
* Myth - Depression is a character flaw. Depression is not a personal weakness and it should be viewed as any other medical condition. People who are depressed are often unable to function as they had in the past and struggle to accomplish everyday tasks. This is not because they are lazy or being dramatic, it is because depression is a serious health issue that should be recognized and treated as early as possible. Both young people and adults who are depressed need professional treatment.
* Myth - Only certain types of people have depression. Depression affects all ages, races and genders. Sometimes people believe that only certain types of people can be depressed. Even people who seem to have everything including a good job and healthy relationships can have depression. While statistics show that some groups, like older adults, are more likely to suffer from depression, anyone can struggle with the illness. It can run in families, but anyone, even those without a family history, can be depressed.
* Myth - Depression causes people to be violent. People who are depressed are no more likely to be violent or commit crimes than members of the general population. Although some people with depression do experience feelings of anger and sometimes have outbursts, the vast majority of people who have depression never harm anyone.
* Myth - Depression is not a big deal. If left untreated, depression can lead to extreme changes in your mood, thoughts, behaviors and bodily functions, and for some people suicidal thoughts. Almost everyone who dies by suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like "You'll be sorry when I'm dead," or "I can't see any way out" – no matter how casually or jokingly said – may indicate serious suicidal feelings.
* Myth - Depression will go away on its own. Positive thinking is not enough to cure depression. Some people who have mild depression can make lifestyle changes which can help alleviate symptoms of depression, but many others need to seek treatment to get better. A mental health professional can help them learn more positive ways to think about themselves, change behaviors, cope with problems, or handle relationships. A clinician can prescribe medications to help relieve the symptoms of depression. For many people, a combination of psychotherapy and medication is beneficial. Early detection is extremely important because 80 percent of people who receive some form of treatment for depression can learn to manage the condition and live a fulfilling life.
* Fact - Help is available. If you think you or someone you know might be struggling with depression, you are encouraged to visit HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org and take an online mental health screening. Online screenings are free, anonymous and available 24/7.
Although the screenings are not diagnostic, they do provide valuable insight helping to identify if you are exhibiting symptoms associated with depression and connecting you with appropriate treatment resources.
NOTE: If you or someone you know is in immediate danger because of thoughts of suicide, call 911 immediately. If there is no immediate danger but rather a need to talk to someone, call the national suicide prevention line at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).