Support Is Close at Hand
It’s a common greeting we use every day: “How are you?” But more and more, people are realizing how significant this question really is. When it comes to our mental health, it’s something we should ask ourselves and each other often. More importantly, we should give an honest answer.
Depression is a common problem. The National Institute of Mental Health* (NIMH) says an estimated 19.4 million American adults had one or more major depressive episodes in 2019. NIMH defines an episode as a two-week period during which a person has symptoms of depression. These may include:
- Feelings of sadness.
- A loss of interest in hobbies.
- Lack of energy.
- Sleeping too much or too little.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
There are a few different types of depression. They include persistent depressive disorder, which lasts at least two years; postpartum depression, which is triggered by the birth of a baby; and seasonal affective disorder, which appears during the winter.
You can find help for all types of depression. Most people see positive results from medications, psychotherapy or a combination of the two, but there is no single answer that will work for everyone. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment options for you. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, get help right away. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 800-273-8255 or by visiting their website, www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Anxiety can be a part of our everyday lives. It’s common to feel anxious in situations like job interviews or big tests. Anxiety can warn us about harmful situations so we can keep ourselves safe. But if anxiety is making it hard to complete daily activities, you might have a generalized anxiety disorder. Symptoms may include:
- Feelings of restlessness or edginess.
- Unusual or frequent fatigue.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Muscle tension.
- Uncontrollable feelings of worry.
If you think you might have a generalized anxiety disorder, talk to your doctor about care options. Again, medications and counseling work well for many people.
COVID-19 forced us to limit our in-person contact, causing many people to feel socially isolated. This can be harmful for our well-being. Researchers have found links between social isolation and higher risks for depression, heart disease and cognitive decline. This is a particular concern for older adults over 65.
It’s important to stay active and feel connected to others. Here are some things you can try:
- Start a new hobby or take a class.
- Take time each day to reach out to family, friends or neighbors. Video chats can be a great way to stay connected, even over long distances.
- Exercise at least a few days a week. Consider joining an exercise group, such as a walking club, to meet new people.
- Get to know your neighbors.
- Get involved in your community. Find out what programs are available through your local senior centers, social service agencies, libraries and community clubs.
If you’re having feelings of social isolation, talk to your doctor.
Taking good care of your mental health is an important part of living your best life. If you need help, talk to a doctor about what treatment options might work best for you.
*The National Institute of Mental Health and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offer health information you may find helpful.