The recent suicides of Andrew Koenig, son of Star Trek-famed Walter Koenig, and Michael Blosil, son of performer Marie Osmond, moved me to reflect upon my own battle and history with depression. Unlike many other diseases, depression is not an illness that can be diagnosed by a blood test, an MRI or CAT scan. Though science has finally verified that the disease stems from a true biological disorder, depression remains as one of the most unaccepted and discriminated illnesses of our time.
In an age of reality TV and social media that boasts instant access to content focusing on obesity, drug addiction, alcoholism, spousal abuse and, most recently, sex addiction, depression remains the unspoken word; but guess what – the information is out there, it’s just hush hush and not talked about.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is the leading cause of disability among Americans – children and adults – between the ages of 15 and 44. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also confirms that depression and anxiety are two major causes of illness and death in the United States and reports that there were 33,300 cases of death by suicide in 2006. Many public figures and celebrities have even come out of the closet to profess their own bouts with depressive disorders and still, depression remains a topic of shame amongst the greater majority of our population.
Why is this so hard to talk about and so hard to confront? Why must we, people who suffer with this invisible disorder, have to be told to “just deal with it” or “get over it?” The fact is, THERE IS NO REASON FOR ANYONE TO HAVE TO SUFFER FROM DEPRESSION – NOR, MUST THEY HAVE TO SUFFER FROM DEPRESSION ALONE!
My own history with depression is involved and longer then I wish to write about; and I am not using this blog entry as a platform to play the sympathy card. However, I will state that without intervention, analysis, treatment and, most important, the love and support of my devoted family, chances are I would not be here today and my family would be in the same boat as the Koenig’s and the Osmond’s.
I will be transparent and admit that I have depended upon anti-depressants for over 30 years to keep me mentally whole and healthy. Were it not for my diligence in taking my meds [as prescribed] life would be, needless to say, very difficult. In the articles that I read about the celebrities’ children who took their own lives, there were statements that both individuals discontinued their medications at some point in time – a very dangerous thing to do.
There should be no shame in taking medication for depression any more than the need to medicate any other type of illness. Sometimes, family members ask me to consider stopping my meds to see if I can manage without them. Would a diabetic be asked to stop taking insulin to see if he or she can manage without? No. Would someone diagnosed with cancer be told “stop the chemo and see if you can survive?” I doubt it. No one should be shamed into stopping any medication that can be their lifeblood of existence.
Depression is not a dirty word! It is a fact of life and, biologically for many, a part of the human condition. Depression is something that can be managed if we recognize the symptoms and support those in need. There is no reason to lose anyone to this sad disease!