Posted: Saturday, December 31, 2011 10:58:56 PM
There’s something different in the way Ron walks; nobody else sees it, but I do. His best friend has stopped hanging out with him, because “he’s no fun anymore.” His girlfriend has broken up with him—they’ve grown apart, she explains. He’s stopped coming to parties. He’s started eating alone. No one really sees him anymore. “He’s probably got the flu,” his (former) best friend explains, “he won’t even return my texts. If this is how he wants to act, screw him.” Ron is sick, but he doesn’t have the flu. He transfers at the end of the semester, in search, doubtless, of his former self. The Ron we all loved. Ron was depressed, and for all I know, still is.
About 12% of the population will suffer from depression at some point in their lives, and experts believe that this number will only increase. 15% of depressed people will commit suicide. It is thought that by 2020, depression will be the second most common health problem in the world. The good news is that depression is highly treatable—80% to 90% of depressed people find relief, although only about 20% receive treatment. Women are about twice as likely as men to suffer depression, and preschoolers are the fastest growing market for antidepressants. Depression does not discriminate: it equally affects people of all races, creeds, and nationalities.
54% of the population believes that depression is a personal weakness. This figure is absolutely staggering. In our society, cancer survivors are heroes, lauded for their perseverance and vitality. Those who overcome clinical depression? The social stigma is so great that these individuals rarely even to “come out.” They usually suffer, and heal, in silence. As a society, we need to change our approach to mental illness. Just as family members flock to the sides of those afflicted with cancer, so too should they come to the aid of those who are majorly depressed.
We have to change the way we think about depression. Simply increasing awareness of the disorder is not enough, because we must also alter our perception of it. Depression is a medical illness, and therefore we should treat it as such. Efforts have been made to increase understanding and treatment of depression, such as CBS Cares and Real Men Real Depression. Drug companies have also become more aggressive in marketing antidepressant medications, emphasizing the idea that depression is a medical condition. I believe that the best way to increase and change our awareness of depression is to work in conjunction with the schools, educating teachers and students of the reality of depression—what symptoms to look for in themselves and in those around them—and where to seek help. This could be accomplished by a nationwide campaign, similar to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. We cannot work alone if we wish to cure depression. It is paramount that we come together as communities to help those who need not only help, but hope.