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Short Guide to Depression

Updated on March 25, 2010

A Frank Discussion About Depression

• Know the definition, signs and symptoms of depression

• Effects on workplace, children and family

• Obstacles to seeking help

• Treatments for depression

• How to talk to a depressed person about getting help

Basic Facts

• What is depression?

• How long does it last?

• Can it be cured?

• What are the types of depression?

What Causes Depression?

• A disorder of the brain

• Brain circuitry responsible for the regulation of moods, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behavior fail to function properly

• A combination of genetic, cognitive, and environmental factors are often involved in the onset of a depressive disorder

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

• Sadness

• Feelings of extreme guilt

• Suicidal ideas

• Insomnia

• Diminished interest in activities

• Difficulty concentrating

• Anxiety

• Appetite changes

• Weight changes

• Irritability

• Mood swings

• Distorted thinking

• Low self-esteem

• Feelings of hopelessness

• Exhaustion

• Feelings of helplessness

• Agitation

• Social withdrawal

• Indecisiveness

• Decreased sexual interest

Symptoms in the Workplace:

• Persistent sad & empty mood

• Feeling hopeless

• Loss of interest in ordinary activities

• Disturbances in eating and sleeping patterns; fatigue at work

• Irritability with co-workers

• Difficulty concentrating; missed deadlines; errors

• Thoughts of suicide

Effects of Depression in the Workplace

• Decreased productivity

• Morale problems

• Lack of cooperation

• Safety problems, accidents

• Absenteeism

• Frequent complaints of being tired all the time

• Complaints of unexplained aches and pains

• Alcohol and drug abuse

Obstacles to Seeking Treatment

• Embarrassment, the stigma of mental illness: “only crazy people go to shrinks”

• Believing depression is a personal weakness: “I just need to buckle down and deal with it”

• “It costs too much”, or “I don’t have time”

• A belief that treatment won’t help

• A feeling of not deserving help

• In severe depression, people lack the ability to take action

Treatments for Depression

• Inpatient

– If danger to self or others

– Should include both medication and psychotherapy

• Outpatient

– Psychotherapy, a talk therapy, one-to-one, group and/or marital

– Medication Treatments for Depression

• Need to be aware of dual diagnosis e.g. alcohol/drugs and depression.

• With appropriate treatment approximately 80% recover

• Improvement usually seen in a matter of weeks.

Suicide – Basic Facts

• Suicide rates are not the highest during the holidays

• Journal of American Medical Association reports that 95% of all

suicides occur at the peak of a depressive episode

• As per the Center for Disease Control, suicide rate is 10.8 per

100,000 lives

• Cause of a suicide is very complicated; much more than the break up of a relationship

• Over 90% of those that take their life have a significant psychiatric

illness at the time of their death

Risk Factors

• Previous suicide attempt

• History of depression

• History of substance abuse

• Family history of suicide

• Impulsive or aggressive tendencies

• Loss of a relationship, loved one, social network, employment,

physical health, finances

• Easy access to lethal methods

Protective Factors For Suicidal Person

• Access to counseling and support

• Family and community support

• Skills in problem solving and conflict resolution

• Cultural and religious beliefs

Understanding Suicidal Signs:

• It is difficult to deal with a sudden and unexplainable death

• There is no opportunity to tie up "loose ends"

• Changes in behavior, personality, or mood

• Verbal cues such as "What's the point of living?", "Soon you

won't have to worry about me" or "Who cares if I'm dead


• Expressing feelings that life is meaningless or hopeless

• Giving away cherished possessions

• Neglect of appearance or hygiene

• Sudden unexplained deterioration of work performance or


Responding to Warning Suicidal Signs

• If someone confides to you their suicidal ideas or plans, share that information with an appropriate resource – don’t  keep it to yourself.

• Find help.  This may require mobilizing other people.

• The person requires immediate help if there is any indication that they have been considering suicide or having suicidal thoughts

• Do not leave a suicidal person alone as they are in immediate danger 

What Can You Do?

• Learn about depression

• Know the sources of help available

• Recognize when someone shows signs that might be depression-related

• Don’t diagnose the problem yourself

• Be flexible about scheduling, to accommodate their seeking treatment

• “You don’t have to feel that way. There are effective treatments”.

• Encourage staying in treatment and/or continuing to take their medication

• If suicidal, call their therapist, or local mental health emergency services for help for them


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    • Jane Forrest profile image

      Janie Walker 

      8 years ago from Glasgow Scotland UK

      what a precise and helpful article. I may use this to help people in future. Many thanks



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