Depression affects between 17-20 million Americans a year! This includes all races, socioeconomic status, and gender. What’s most alarming about this statistic is that just 7.6 percent of African-Americans sought treatment for depression compared to 13.6 percent of the general population in 2011. Depression is not only treated at lower rates in the African-American community, particularly among black women, but of those who do receive treatment, many don’t receive adequate treatment.
It’s time to start putting ourselves first ladies! This year, I want to put mental health and self-care as something all women of color understand is important and necessary for us to be universally healthy. This week, we focus on depression.
Look for the signs of depression.
There are many common symptoms associated with depression. If you identify with one or more of those listed below, seek advice from your doctor. Signs of depression include:
- An inability to function normally in everyday life.
- Inability to enjoy activities you once loved, such as reading, playing video games, drawing, etc.
- Lethargy, fatigue, and the feeling that doing things takes a lot of your energy.
- Persistent sadness, including fits of crying either uncontrollably or being set off easily, feelings of anxiety or emptiness.
- Feeling blue, sad, and generally down over a period of at least two weeks.
- Feelings of worthlessness, self-blame and a lack of self-esteem.
- Sleeping a lot more or less than usual, or experiencing insomnia.
- Unusual weight gain or loss, overeating or appetite loss.
- Finding thinking or concentrating difficult, “foggy” thinking, inability to make clear decisions or forgetfulness.
- Pessimism, or feeling a sense that life is hopeless, pointless and futile. This may even lead to a feeling of numbness.
- Body pains, cramps, digestive problems, headaches, and other aches that don’t go away with medication or treatment.
- Being irritable or restless a great deal of the time.
- Suicidal thoughts, thoughts about dying, or attempts at suicide.
Have you doctor explore possible medical causes behind your depression.
Knowledge is power! The more you understand what depression is, the better you’ll be able to cope with its effects.
Try talk therapy!
You’re not crazy for wanting or needing to speak with a therapist! As a person who is in the field, I encourage most of my friends and family to seek help. Mainly because we underestimate the power that talking someone and releasing the anxiety has. You can find a therapist through your insurance or local clinics. Most communities offer low-income options, so do your research!
Try alternative therapies or remedies.
Investigate the potential of alternative therapies such as art therapy and acupuncture. Here are some examples:
- Music is a form of self-help therapy that is known to change mood.Choose music that improves your mood. If you must listen to sad music, switch to more upbeat music after a few songs.
- Art therapy is another common alternative practice for depression. Draw, paint, or create designs that unleash your feelings on a canvas or paper. There are qualified art therapists who can assist you if needed.
- Pet therapy can help. Pets prevent a sense of isolation, they don’t judge, and studies have proven that they induce a feeling of well-being in people who are depressed. Even if you don’t own a pet, try to get access to someone else’s on a regular basis and spend time with them.
Maintain a good support network.
Support from people who love and care about you is an important part of the healing process. Tell people you trust that you’re depressed and would appreciate their understanding and empathy. It is far harder for people to help you if you’re secretive and do things that seem inexplicably strange. Knowing will help people to make allowances and support you as best they can.
- Be willing to be honest about your irritability and reclusive behavior with those you trust. They need to know it’s not personal, but that you need space or time out every now and then.
Do fun things and treat yourself.
Feeling down feeds on itself and it soon becomes a catch-22 when you convince yourself that you don’t deserve to enjoy anything. The antidote is to do things that you used to enjoy or that are fun for people around you — “one fun thing a day to keep the blues at bay.”
- As with everything else, do this gradually. One fun thing a day, such as watching a beloved comedy or reading a funny book can give you a sense of fun for a while.
- Schedule positive events into your life. Go out to dinner, the movies, or for a walk with friends.
- Take it slowly. If you used to enjoy gardening, plant a single plant. If you used to enjoy a long walk, take a short one. Gradually build up to more enjoyable experiences.
A recent study showed exercise to be as effective as Zoloft (a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor or SSRI) in treating depression. Exercise releases a natural anti-depressant chemical in your brain and gets you into doing something active. Start small with a simple walk to the local store or around the block, or to your garden gate might be the way to begin. Gradually work up to a routine that fits with your needs and enjoyment.
- Look for friends or group exercise sessions since having a partner will keep you more motivated. You can also look for activities that will allow you to release some of the pent-up emotions that may be built up, such as kickboxing.
- Playing sports is a great way to get regular exercise, stay occupied, focus on self-improvement and meet new people. Some studies have found that people who participate in sports have somewhat fewer symptoms of depression. Choose a sport that is exhausting to quiet the chatter in your mind and leave you feeling wrung out—just don’t overdo it. Join a team or class in your area and commit to showing up to as many of these meetings as possible, even if you may not feel like going some days.
Start a journal of your journey through your depression.