Facts about depression

As breakthroughs allow the public to understand the causes of depression, and as public figures become more willing to acknowledge their own struggles with the illness, society’s awareness of the condition has increased.
Yet, psychologists say misunderstandings about depression still linger. University counselors and other experts offered these facts and advice about the illness:
ù Depression affects people of all ages and social levels, including children. It most commonly emerges between the ages of 18 and 30 years old.
ù There is no single cause of depression, but reoccurring links come up with perfectionism, unresolved grief, constant self-doubt and loneliness. Every phase of a person’s life has challenges, said University psychologist Rodney Loper.
ù Psychologists increasingly view depression as collaborative mind and body issue. Loper said the notion of a strict separation between the two has fallen out of favor.
ù Others with “shrug it off” or “toughen up” attitudes can actually depress a person further. Depression, emphasized Loper, is the “common cold of mental health.” It hampers productivity and health in the same way as physical diseases.
ù Depressed people tend to blame themselves for situations over which they have little control and dismiss their positive achievements as trivial or unworthy. To combat this habit, Minneapolis 24-hour phone line Crisis Connection director Frank Togas suggested getting depressed people to talk about their thoughts. By doing this, Togas said, people often view their problems more realistically.
ù Signs of depression include excessiveness in one particular area, withdrawal, constant negative comments and unexplained attitude changes. Perhaps the best indication, said University psychologist Glenn Hirsch, is if people find themselves questioning another’s behavior.
ù If a person suspects depression, always let the other person know you are concerned, Hirsch said, because you cannot make the situation any worse. Asking about suicide, he said, won’t trigger harmful actions and often serves as a great relief.
ù Inquire about a depressed person’s mood, thoughts and feelings, and ask them what they are doing to deal with their depression. Encourage them to seek treatment.
ù Though listening is crucial, “don’t reinforce their negative mindset,” Loper cautioned. And make sure another person knows of the situation, he added. The stress of being the sole confidant can be harmful to both you and the depressed person.
ù Both Boynton Health Services and University Counseling and Consulting Services offer services for depression. For emergencies, call the Crisis Connection at (612) 379-6363.

— Compiled by Sam Kean