Editorial: Depression can be serious but treatable

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Depression rarely brings the kind of tragic result seen in St. Paul last week, when a mother threw her twin babies off a bridge into a river, then jumped in herself. But it is cases like these that put the condition into the headlines and demonstrate how damaging it can be if untreated.

Nationwide, nearly 20 million adults suffer from clinical depression each year. The condition can affect anyone, regardless of age, race or income.

Most cases of clinical depression won’t end up in suicide attempts, but if untreated, the condition can lead to the loss of pleasure from daily life at the least, or something much worse.

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The problem is that many people don’t fully understand the symptoms of depression. Along with more obvious symptoms like sadness and withdrawal, things like anxiety, trouble sleeping and irritability can be symptoms. Some people think their depression is only serious if it lasts months or leaves them unable to function, or believe a little depression is normal for those who are old, sick or pregnant.

But experts say depression is never normal. Luckily, however, it can be treated with great success.

According to the Mental Health Association, more than 80 percent of people with depression can be treated successfully with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both. Only a qualified health professional can determine if someone has clinical depression. Anyone who believes they or someone close to them have symptoms of depression should not wait for a wake-up call like a suicide attempt or other harmful behavior to get help.

Most people will never act on their depression in a violent and reckless way that will make headlines &045; surely there was something else wrong with that young mother that drove her to kill. But the condition can be serious nonetheless, and should be taken seriously.