Depression affects many in Freeborn County

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 28, 2006

By Kari Lucin, staff writer

Completed suicides aren’t that common in Freeborn County, but there are attempts, and three or four people a month are put on mental health holdovers or hospitalized for suicidal ideation.

&8220;Often it’s somebody telling their family members that they want to kill themselves,&8221; said Howard Walker, Freeborn County Mental Health program manager.

It’s hard to tell how Freeborn County is affected by the costs of depression, because it simply doesn’t have a good statistical database to draw from. Many cases are treated by family doctors or psychiatrists in private practice or at the clinic.

&8220;I would probably say people in their 30s and 40s are most common that come in for treatment. There’s a lot of undiagnosed depression,&8221; Walker said.

The most common type of depression seems to be episodic or situational depression, triggered by the loss of a job or relationship, or a major change causing stress. Kids are particularly vulnerable as they struggle with grades, relationships, identity crises and family conflict.

Though diagnosis of depression is more common in women than in men, the problem may present differently in men or men might be more reluctant to talk about it or get help. And the illness does tend to run in families.

Two major symptoms of depression include a persistent sad mood and a loss of interest in life.

&8220;People often report that they’ve lost interest in things that they used to enjoy doing. They don’t care if they do them anymore,&8221; Walker said.

Many with clinical depression withdraw socially. They can have problems concentrating or making decisions. Sometimes they can’t stay focused and have low self-esteem.

&8220;A key piece for especially suicidality is hopelessness,&8221; said Walker. &8220;’I’m in such a bad situation, nothing could make it better.&8221;

Physical symptoms are disrupted sleep habits and appetite changes like binge eating or loss of interest in food.

But the distorted thinking process of those with depression can be the worst, as the person can’t see anything positive in their situation, said Walker.

&8220;They get kind of stuck in this negative thinking, interpreting everything in negative ways,&8221; said Walker.

The best way to help someone you believe is depressed is to get them to talk to a professional, either a private physician or a mental health professional like a therapist or counselor.

The worst way is to minimize the issue or tell the person to snap out of it.

&8220;There seems to be a belief that if you’re depressed, you can pull yourself out of it. People are suspected of being malingerers for attention,&8221; Walker said, emphasizing that listening is key.

Depression is treatable, not just by drugs, but by counseling and therapy. And both used together are more effective than either alone.

&8220;One of the things we do with people that are depressed, we try to get them to contract to do more,&8221; Walker said. &8220;If we can get you to change your behavior, do certain things you weren’t doing before, we do find that people improve.&8221;