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Depression & Mental Illness: Don’t Suffer in Silence

By May 25, 2011May 13th, 201261 Comments

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Depression

Bipolar Disorder

Anxiety

Schizophrenia

Personality Disorder

Post-postpartum Depression

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Listed above are just a few of the many mental health disorders that people suffer from. This list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, but it does include some of the more common disorders.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mental health disorders are very wide spread among the American adult population. In fact, tens of millions of people are diagnosed with some type of mental illness, with about 26% of that population suffering from a seriously debilitating mental illness.

Mental illness is huge throughout the US and the world, but the sad reality is that only a fraction of people diagnosed with the illness actually receive treatment. This is a very troubling fact to me. Mental illness is a disease — caused by something wrong with the way that the brain works. It should be thought of no differently than if someone had diabetes, heart failure or arthritis.

Unfortunately, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, very few people with mental illness actually seek treatment. Depression is one such disease that is often left untreated.

understanding mental illness

This could be because treatment for a mental illness like depression can be complicated and take some time before a person begins to feel better. There is also a stigma attached to having mental illness, which may be one reason that people don’t get the treatment they need.

The first step in treatment is finding a trusted doctor who will do a physical assessment and look for other causes for the feelings of depression, such as a non-functioning thyroid. Once this is completed and no issues are found with a patient’s physical health, then treatment for depression can begin.

Treatment usually involves attending counseling sessions and/or taking medication(s).

Counseling is used in the treatment of mental illness because it is a way for a person to talk about and deal with the feelings that are causing depression. It can also help a person find and learn good coping skills.

In some cases, where the depression is mild, counseling can be enough. However, in more moderate to severe cases, medication needs to be added to the treatment program.

Mental illness, such as depression, is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. To correct this, medication is needed to help the body function normally. Antidepressants can help restore the proper chemical balance in the brain, ensuring that the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin, which are responsible for mood and emotions, are regulated properly. It’s just like if a person had diabetes and needed to take insulin because the body does not or cannot make its own insulin.

But taking a pill is not going to magically make the symptoms of depression go away.

Because antidepressants and other medications used to treat mental illness are very powerful drugs, doctors usually prescribe the lowest dose possible at first and then titrate the medication up. Also, it can take up to 4 to 6 weeks before there is enough of the medication in the patient’s system to begin to make an impact.

This can be a very difficult time for the person affected with mental illness and for their family. Symptoms can get worse and it may appear that the medication is not helping at all. A person’s chemical imbalance within the brain can be so bad that two or more medications are needed to decrease the symptoms, which again takes time to bring about any noticeable change.

But when a person takes their medication as directed, attends counseling, and is open and honest with their doctor, depression and other mental illnesses can get better.

I have seen how severe depression can destroy lives. It has touched my life in many different ways from witnessing the patients I care for dive into depression due to weeks of being in the hospital to watching a member of my family struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide.

What makes me most sad about mental illness is that people feel like there is no hope; they hide or are ashamed.

I believe that we need to change the way mental illness is viewed. This is a serious, treatable illness that people don’t have to suffer in silence with.

Mental illness has touched my family. The people I love still struggle, but they sought treatment and I am very proud of them.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Make yourself more aware of this disease and help those that are struggling. There is hope and treatment.

Helpful Resources:

National Institute of Mental Health
National Alliance on Mental Illness

If you have a health question for me, then head over to my group in The SITS Girls forum and ask! I’d love to help you get the answers you’re looking for.

More From Jen:

Ask the Expert: Why Am I Tired?
Caffeine Intake: How Much Is Too Much?
New Car Seat Guidelines
Autism Awareness Series:
Part 1: What Does Autism Look Like?
Part 2: The Faces of Autism – Meet Three Moms and Their Kids
Part 3: Understanding Autism in the Classroom

About Jen

Jen Mitchell is a registered nurse with over 10 years of experience. She works in Critical Care Medicine with adult patients and wants to help you to understand your body and, in turn, how to take better care of it. Buried with Children Blog | Twitter | Facebook

61 Comments

  • Charlie Lee says:

    It’s good that you are encouraging people with illness to open up and ask for help from the people who love them. Thanks for this post.

  • Jessica says:

    Great article Jen. There is hope for people suffering from depression. There is a clinical research study going on in the Seattle WA area, http://depressedinseattle.com has the contact information.

    Additional clinical trials can be found at http://nwcrc.net

    Hope this helps someone, it helped me.

    -Jessica

  • Lady Jennie says:

    I’ve been treated for depression for many years now. I’d like to try and go off again as it contributes to weight gain and feeling dull. I want to talk to a specialist about this next Fall when al my kids are in school.

  • Love this post thank you so much!

  • misssrobin says:

    I struggle with depression. My husband has OCD. We both have additional mental health issues as do many members of our families.

    I talk and write about it openly. I do so because I can. So many others struggle and are afraid. I understand this. I do not look down on them. I was like that, too. I talk in the hopes that the world will become a less scary place and people will begin to see these issues for what they are — illness.

    Thank you for writing about it.

  • Madison says:

    I’ve had chronic depression since I was 13. I’ve been on every possible drug and drug combination. I don’t talk about it. People who have never had depression don’t understand. I believe they don’t want to. I have good periods and bad periods. The best that I can hope for is to someday find a mid-range I can live in.

  • Sarah says:

    My grandma had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The “treatments” she endured in her 20s and 30s were horrific. As she got older, things improved and when her medication was right it really made a difference in her quality of life. She was such a giving person (passed away 4 years ago now). Mental illness runs in our family and I think that my grandma was sent here to help the rest of us understand it and to have compassion for those that it affects. Thanks Grandma- love you and miss you!!!