Depression is a very common condition that affects more than 16 million Americans—almost 17 percent of the population—and more than 300 million around the world. October has been designated National Depression Awareness Month to provide education and information about this condition in order to reduce the stigma associated with this disease.
Depression goes beyond feelings of sadness. It is characterized by paralyzing fatigue, a sense of hopelessness, and feelings of irritability and emptiness. It can range from moderate to severe, and can impact individuals only at certain times, such as postpartum depression or seasonal affective disorder. Symptoms can include loss of interest in life activities, sadness, change in appetite, sleep disruption, lethargy and suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Untreated depression causes people to have a great deal of difficulty functioning in their day-to- day lives. Treatment for depression can be very effective in relieving symptoms of hopelessness and inability to function. Additionally, approximately 30 percent of people with substance abuse problems also have depression, requiring coordinated treatment for both conditions, as substance abuse can make depression more severe.
Major depression is understood to be an episode of sadness or apathy along with other symptoms that lasts at least two consecutive weeks and is severe enough to interrupt daily activities. Depression is not a sign of weakness or a negative personality; it is a major public health problem and a treatable medical condition.
Depression is a medical condition that should be taken seriously. If you or a loved one has been experiencing depression for over two weeks, it is important to talk to a mental health professional immediately. If you have suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately at 800-273-TALK.
Sen. Bill Monning represents the 17th State Senate District, which includes all of San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz counties, and portions of Monterey and Santa Clara counties.