Thanks again to Dr. Shock and his blog, here’s a lecture by biologist Robert Sapolsky during a recent workshop presented by Stanford’s Faculty and Staff Help Center. Sapolsky talked about the biological and psychological causes of depression, how to recognize its symptoms and how to handle the disease. He said that “depression is like the worst disease you can get.”
October 8 is the annual National Depression Screening Day. These are free screenings that will be held all over the United States and in some international locations. It’s not a program that provides a diagnosis but the screening will point out if there’s a presence of depressive symptoms and give you referrals for further evaluation if needed.
Though I am glad that such a day exists, I did notice something that made me wonder if the organizers really thought this through. In my town, screenings have been set up in several locations throughout the city. None of them exist in a public location, e.g. public health dept., but some have been set up, of all places, in psychiatric hospitals. Perhaps I should just be glad that these screenings have been set up at all and that I shouldn’t be so critical. However, I can’t really think of anyone who would willingly drop by a psychiatric hospital. As someone who’s been frequenting such institution for some time now, I wouldn’t go if I didn’t have to. Why put someone through having to go to a psychiatric hospital for a screening?
Health services, like getting a flu shot, can be received in places like grocery stores. If this screening is just for a day, can’t we at least set it up in places that are a little more accessible?
- About half of mental disorders begin before the age of 14
- Around 20% of the world’s children and adolescents are estimated to have mental disorders or problems
- Most low- and middle-income countries have only one child psychiatrist for every 1 to 4 million people
- About 800,000 people commit suicide every year, 86% of them in low- and middle-income countries
- More than half of the people who kill themselves are aged between 15 and 44
- The highest suicide rates are found among men in eastern European countries
Source: WHO/BBC News
The World Health Organization (WHO) just released their prediction that by 2030, depression will be the “single biggest cause for burden out of all health conditions,” with its effects felt both economically and sociologically. This prediction comes as Athens, Greece, hosts the very first Global Mental Health Summit.
“One could call it a silent epidemic because depression is more often being recognised, but it has been there throughout and is likely to increase in terms of proportion when other diseases are actually going down,” says WHO’s Dr. Shekhar Saxena to BBC News. “Depression is as much of a disease as any other physical disease that people suffer from and they have a right to get correct advice and treatment with in the same health care settings which look after other health conditions.”
While that may be her hope, that’s not the reality. Currently, most developing countries spend less than 2% of their national budgets on mental health care, though most of 450+ million affected by mental disorders live in developing countries. “We have figures to show that poorer countries have actually more depression compared to richer countries and even poor people in rich countries have a high incidence of depression compared to the richer people in the same countries,” says Dr Saxena. The BBC News article, Mental Health: a Global Challenge, highlights experiences of people in these countries. Compared to low-income countries, high-income countries allocate 200 times more resources to mental health.
“It actually accounts not only for a significant proportion of government spending in developed countries, it also makes a impact on their GDP as well. Professor Martin Prince, professor of epidemiological psychiatry at King’s College, London has tried to calculate in financial terms how much of a burden a depressed person can become. ‘Part of this is through lost productivity because people with serious depression are much less likely to be employed and to stay employed. Then there’s the cost to society of providing, for example, incapacity and unemployment benefits, particularly in rich developed countries,’ he says. ‘These costs combined amount in the UK, it’s estimated, to about £12bn ($19bn) per year or around 1% of the gross national product, so these are absolutely enormous sums.'” (BBC News)
I think I had forgotten that depression is not just an American problem. Sometimes when all we hear about is how overmedicated our society is, we unintentionally begin to forget that depression is an epidemic that goes beyond just discussing medication or getting a therapist. I realize how privileged I’ve been because I can’t imagine being depressed and not have any means of getting any sort of treatment. There was a recent article in Scientific American about how depression may have been an adaptation that brought certain useful, cognitive advantages, but from looking at these stats, I don’t really see such actual benefit.
Inherited Depression Linked To Brain Cortex Thinning
from Medical News Today
Shared via AddThis
ScienceDaily (June 13, 2009) â In a discovery that could lead to new treatment approaches for depression, researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have shown that Internet-based therapy programs are as effective as face-to-face therapies in combating the illness.
Shared via AddThis
There is a strange seductive power in the dark mood. Though one may not want to be depressed, I admit that depression has a certain draw that I wonder if my living in that mood is sometimes a choice. Maybe I come back to it because it’s just so familiar. I don’t know how to stay simply content when I’ve never really been in that state of mind.
Before work, I ordered a planner for the year 2009. A red Moleskine book, the color matches my large, red L-shaped couch. (although the couch isn’t red on the edges anymore since I covered up all of the scratched areas with Kerry-Edwards stickers.) Yes, I know the year’s, like, third of the way over, but it was a big step for me to finally switch from a makeshift pieces of paper to an actual calendar that’ll allow me to write down my, well, plans for the year.
I thought I felt okay all through the afternoon, but I suppose that wasn’t meant to last for the rest of the day. It wasn’t the best thing that I chose to watch ‘House’ instead of SportsCenter during dinner (I should have stuck with ESPN; they’re starting to speak about NFL). The ‘House’ episode happened to be the one where Kutner kills himself, and watching that show undoubtedly raised questions within myself. I began to evaluate if I was glad to be alive. I honestly couldn’t answer, and that scared me. How desperately I wanted to say yes to that question, but that really would be lying.
Later that night, I picked up Simon, held him and walked to my bedroom. As he purred in my arms, I wept. I didn’t know why, and I didn’t know what I needed to do. Droplets landed on Simon’s striped fur, while he tolerated my embrace and just purred. Maybe this isn’t depression but a genuine fear of what’s to come.
I looked at myself in the mirror. Mascara had run with the tears. This is why I rarely wear mascara, I thought to myself.
I believe I prefer being able to have some level of introspection than living without it. However, my friend asked me if my constant self-evaluation just masks the symptom of depression. I don’t know. Am I just fighting to keep a part of what I thought was me, but it really wasn’t? I’m trying to hold on to something (as in the thought process) that I know will kill me. It’s become painfully clear that what I thought was being perceptive has turned into a paralytic. “You can’t stop being who you are because you’re afraid, right?” says Carrie Bradshaw. Well, what if you’re afraid that the extremes of who you are become detrimental to your own life? Where is that line? What’s the limit?
Need to revise this one later. Time to go to bed.
I take it back. I have no confidence in rain. In fact, this cold, rainy weather makes me feel even worse than I already do today.
I tried to get at least one room of my house cleaned today, but I just couldn’t get it together. I did make it to the fitness room, but that didn’t make me feel any better. This is starting to sound so whiny, but if I’m not honest about how I really felt today, I feel like I can and will deny that the following ever happened. And the next time this happens, I wouldn’t know how to handle it any better.
As time went by, I just felt more uneasy. I usually enjoy watching March Madness, but tonight I just wasn’t interested. I didn’t even feel like reading some news or watching Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow. Just so I could accomplish something of value, I stepped into the shower before the second half of the Michigan State/UNC game. A shower would make me feel better, I thought.
I stood under that warm water as it poured over me. I waited to feel just a little bit better. But instead (and this is so, so hard for me to write out because if I wish I didn’t have to admit this), I realized that I still had that mindset left in me to harm myself. Not now, but I knew I could still do it.
I stood there terrified. I don’t know how these thoughts crept in. This insidious force just cannot pull me in. All I wanted to do was to drown these dark thoughts away, but I just couldn’t get it out of my head.
Okay. I got out of the shower, turned back on that game, and took a deep breath. I reminded myself that everyone has an emotionally bad day, though these thoughts may not be all too common. But tomorrow is another day, and it’s almost here. Michigan State will have to wait til next March to try to win the national championship, but I get a chance to start over the very next day. It’s been how I dealt with these emotions that got me in trouble in the past. I know now I don’t have to take that same route. And I’m not going to. I better not.
It sure took a while for me to pick a simple web-journal name that doesn’t sound so, well, depressing. I actually liked “the last option,” because that’s kind of what it is (Having trying 20+ different meds should count as having tried a lot of options). But I suppose the ECT is not just the last option but it could be the first time in a long time to actually feel alive, which by the way, I can’t really recall what it’s like to not want to die all the time.
So, I thought “a little spark” is appropriate in several ways, first of which is that it makes ECT sound kind of magical, rather than “you’re going to have a grand mal seizure and will experience some memory loss.” Second, a spark often starts something, like a sparkplug, or a spark that will give one a brilliant idea. It’s that little spark that I guess I need in order to get a new life, and my little spark that’ll give me that life is actually going to come by means of a little spark (or at least 6 to 12 of them) in my head. Sounds a bit cutesy, and I’m not sure I quite believe what I’m writing. But just because I don’t believe it doesn’t mean I don’t want to believe it.
Btw, after I picked my little journal name, I found that there is a quote by Dante with that phrase: “From a little spark bursts a mighty flame.” And though I write in this tone in my personal, paper-form journal, this exercise in writing on the web feels ridiculously self-indulgent.
I’d like to start posting some recent articles about ECT and mental health, but not today. I have about two weeks until the ECT sessions will first commence. As much as the thought of electricity sent to your brain many times might cause people to become a bit at unease, that’s not the case for me. I was told by my psychiatrist in late October/early November that I should think seriously about taking the ECT option. I was evaluated by a second psychiatrist to make sure I’m a suitable candidate for the procedure. At the time, the doc asked me if I will keep from harming myself until the 3rd week of January. I told him that should not be a problem. I thought, deep depression is what I’m worried about now, so a few more weeks of the horrible downs could be tolerated.
Well, that’s a lie. Though I know the treatment’s just a handfuls of days away, I feel like I’m having to keep myself from harming myself. That temptation is really the issue. I know there’s something for me to look forward to, but the depression simply puts a giant bag over my head making me unable to see that the goalline is in sight. When you’re depressed, nothing wonderful ever catches your sight, and even if it did, you don’t quite capture the appropriate spirit. And yes, that spirit. You know that someone took that spirit away a long time ago, and you’ve been told that those may come back after the little zaps. How can I look forward to the possibility of my own spirit returning when I don’t know how to look forward to anything at all?
So, here it goes. Perhaps a public bearing of my personal issues is totally unnecessary, but I need to document it, mostly for my own sake, but because it was quite hard to find a concise set of materials when I first began researching about ECT (electroconvulsive therapy/electroshock therapy) to have a chance of be able to be awakened from a life that already feels dead to me. Okay, so this is a little project of mine to keep me occupied from doing something stupid in the next two weeks. This ‘waiting game’ before the first jolt to my head is becoming very hard. At any other time, my medication may have been tweaked or at least something would have been altered a bit to see if I can get out of this depression. But because this potential ultimate ‘savior’ is coming soon, there’s almost nothing to be done, except to stay alive. I’m trying hard not to drown, very hard. All I have the energy to really do is shove food into my month, sleep and watch “House” marathon–and even that’s not all that interesting to me anymore. I’ve begun to make myself go shopping for stuff at the mall even though I really don’t need to be spending the money that I’m not making. I usually love the colors and great sales, but it’s just not that enjoyable. Then again, it’s hard to love things when all I would love to be doing is to drop dead. But looking for a cute cashmere hoodie and a nice bench for my window-area just might keep me from looking to die somehow.
I really can’t see my life beyond the two more weeks that I have before the ECT. It’s even hard to think beyond a day or so. But my choice to create a little public journal is for me to make this countdown a time for me do more than just sit and pet a cat. I guess I can now sit, pet a cat, and write something of value. I suppose I’m trying to live in a ‘literal’ sense even if I say that I don’t want to live at all.
It’s T minus sometime around 15th and the 19th. Happy new year, and let the countdown begin.