FEATURE — In March, “Mind Matters” introduced Jana Miller, a mother of five who has struggled with depression on and off since she was 16. As the years passed and her family grew, the depression began to wear on her.
“After my last baby was born in July 2016, I never really fully recovered emotionally from a difficult pregnancy,” Miller said. “I was exhausted, frustrated and overwhelmed with everything I needed to keep track of and everyone who needed my attention. I was angry or apathetic all the time.”
According to Healthline.com, 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression – approximately 5 percent of the world’s population.
In 2016, approximately 16 million adults – 6.7 percent of all U.S. adults – suffered from one depressive episode. Comparatively, 8.5 percent of females suffer from depression, while only 4.8 percent of males suffer from depression.
Causes and symptoms of depression
Depression can be caused by a variety of issue and circumstances, including biochemistry, hormones and genetics, such as a family history of depression. It can also be caused by alcohol or drug abuse, physical or sexual abuse, low self-esteem and certain prescription drugs.
Symptoms of depression can include the following:
- Extreme irritability or anger.
- Loss of interest in hobbies.
- Fixation on past events or circumstances.
- Thoughts of suicide.
Depression can also lead to insomnia, fatigue, increased or decreased appetite, difficulty concentrating and aches and pains.
Depression can last from a couple weeks to a year, although the average length of untreated depression is eight months.
Medication or therapy?
Fortunately for those who are suffering, clinical depression is treatable, and a variety of options is available. The two most common treatments are medication and therapy, and many times, a patient may undergo a combination of the two.
The question is, how does one know if they need medication, therapy or a combination of the two?
Dr. Ryan Williams, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Southwest Behavioral Health Center, said there are typically three types of patients suffering from mental illness.
“If you are feeling a little down or blue, you may only need therapy,” Williams said.
However, Williams said, those who suffer from a mental illness and are “unable to function” may need medication.
“Of those who need medication,” he said, “there are those who will need medication for the rest of their lives and those who need medication to stabilize their emotions while they work through therapy and gain skills to cope with mental illness. These are those who struggle to get out of bed in the morning or have a hard time working. … The best way to determine what you need is to talk to a mental health specialist.”
For Miller, that mental health specialist was her obstetrician.
“After debating with myself ….I [finally] called my OB,” she said. “As soon as I said I might need an antidepressant, they got me in right away.”
After speaking with the nurse practitioner and filling out a depression screening form, Miller was given a prescription for Zoloft.
“In less than a week I was feeling better and realizing just how depressed I had been,” she said. “After several weeks we upped my dose a little and I was back to feeling capable, calm, and alive.”
Is it “real”? Or is it medication?
Unfortunately, for many the stigma of struggling with a mental illness or being on medication – or the idea of both – can be a barrier to seeking help.
“So many people are afraid of trying medication,” Miller said. “I know I was, even though I’ve been on it before and know it’s great. I told (my husband) Jeff before I started it that it felt like cheating, like maybe the way I was feeling was the ‘real’ me and I shouldn’t be messing with nature like that.”
However, Miller said that’s just the depression talking.
“Depression is not you,” she said. “It’s a mental illness that takes over your rational thoughts and blocks the light and the joy.”
Miller’s husband did his part in also helping her to see situations outside of herself.
“(He) reminded me that I was the one who was so motivated to get our 7-year-old son on ADHD meds. I wanted him to have the chance to be himself, to not get in trouble and feel horrible about himself just because his brain couldn’t focus.”
And that’s what it comes down to, Miller said: having the life you want.
I still marvel at the little moments when I know I’m back to my normal self. When I see a spill on the floor … instead of seeing it as more evidence of my failure as a mother I just wipe it up, (and) I’m thankful for my meds. When my husband suggests inviting neighbors over for a barbeque and instead of wanting to hide in a closet I say, ‘That sounds fun,’ when I can willingly get out of bed at 6 a.m., when I laugh at my kids’ silliness, when I make baking shows with them and come up with my own ideas for summer fun, I’m thankful for my meds. When I feel like a worthwhile human being, I’m thankful for my meds.
Written by HEIDI BAXLEY, Iron County Prevention Coalition coordinator, and LAUREN MCAFEE, Cedar City Library in the Park grant and development officer.
About the “Mind Matters” Series
As the Mind Matters series continues, we will highlight several Southern Utah mental health providers and organizations, as well as success stories, but if you or someone you know is seeking help or resources now, go to the following websites:
- Intermountain Healthcare St. George psychiatry and counseling.
- Dixie Regional Behavioral Medicine Unit.
- Cedar City mental health provider list.
If you or someone you know needs helps immediately, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911. There is help and hope available.
St. George News “Mind Matters” series aims to illuminate how mental illnesses affect society and how to maintain mental health.
Articles are contributed by Cedar City Library in the Park in partnership with the Iron County Prevention Coalition and will highlight available resources people may access in Southern Utah and online. However, if you have a success story you would like to share as part of the series, email Heidi Baxley at firstname.lastname@example.org or Lauren McAfee at email@example.com.
Read more: All the articles in the Mind Matters series
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