May is Mental Health Awareness Month and this week is Women’s Health Week. It’s an opportune time for you (or the women in your life) to assess both your physical and mental health.
One of the most common forms of mental illness women experience is depression. Of course, every woman experiences times when they feel sad or down. But, if for more than two weeks the following symptoms occur, you may have major depression:
• Persistent sad, anxious or empty feelings
• Feelings of hopelessness, and/or pessimism
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
• Fatigue and decreased energy
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
• Insomnia, waking up during the night, or excessive sleeping.
Major depression occurs twice as frequently in woman as it does in men. It’s a persistent state that can negatively affect a person’s physical health and how they think, behave and perform day-to-day activities. Depression is the most commonly recognized mental health problem in women. The bad news is it’s grossly underdiagnosed; the good news is it’s a treatable medical illness.
While we don’t know what causes depression, we do know that genetics, brain chemistry and hormones play a role. Beyond those, many factors contribute to depression including environment, biological predisposition, stressful events, abuse, and lack of support and connection.
Treatment for depression can include counseling, psychotherapy or medications and combinations of all of these. The key is to find the right combination of treatment that works for you. Through counseling and therapy you can learn to change your thoughts so you can feel better. Medications, called antidepressants, can help normalize your neurotransmitters – which may also contribute to your recovery. Visit your physician and discuss your symptoms in order to develop the treatment plan that is right for you.
If it’s not you, but someone you love that is showing signs of depression, you can help. Make sure they seek professional help and “be there” for them by listening carefully without denying their feelings or judging them. Be sure to offer them hope – treatment works! Engage them in activities and refer them to resources such aswww.MagellanofAZ.com, www.oneinfour.info and their physician or health care professional.
If you want to learn how you can help intervene when someone has symptoms of depression or how you can help in a behavioral health crisis, Magellan offers free Mental Health First Aid training. The next training is May 20-21 at Magellan. Visit www.MagellanofAZ.com to sign up for the class or to learn more.
Shawn Thiele is deputy CEO for Magellan Health Services of Arizona, manager of Central Arizona’s (Maricopa County and parts of Pinal County) Regional Behavioral Health Authority since 2007.