By Hugh McGeary, Managing Director of Counselling Services, Catholic Family Service

October 6, 2016 is National Depression Screening Day

How do you talk about depression in a way that is meaningful? Let’s start with what depression is not: it’s not about personality, it’s not about being sad, or about grief or loss, or even about feeling low.

Depression is a psychological and physiological state of being. To be truly classed as depression, it needs to be persistent, and impact a number of human systems such as sleep, the kind of thoughts you have, interest in food and sex, level of drive for activity.

Anyone who has been depressed can tell the difference between that state and feelings of sadness, grief or distress. It feels so much more powerful and all encompassing. Think of the effect of carrying an 80-pound backpack everywhere you go, while wearing dark sunglasses, being tormented by a negative internal dialogue and overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness, and often feeling highly agitated. Even that doesn’t successfully describe it.

Its persistence means that you just can’t shake it. We call it “the parking lot effect.” A person struggling with depression may, in a counselling session, have moments of relief, even laughter, but if you watch them go to their car, by the time they are there all the negative effects are back in full force. In depression, the body’s ability to produce and adequately absorb the chemicals created by stimuli such as laughter, pleasure from food or sex, exercise or human interactions is interrupted. This is why people cannot just shake it off or talk themselves out of depression. They just cannot.

No wonder people are at risk of self-harm or of taking on distracting or self-soothing behaviors to cope, such as bingeing on sex, food, shopping, gambling, or withdrawing into gaming, sleeping, avoiding.

However, the good news is that, despite the fact that 8% of Canadians are likely to experience an episode of major depression (and many more experience minor depression), we do know how to help. The combined effects of medication, talk therapy, and acting un-depressed (exercising, hydrating, eating well, sleeping well, engaging with the world) can make a big difference.

It may take a while and it may be hard to get back to a state of equilibrium and to distance yourself from the feelings and beliefs arising from being in that state of mind and body, but it is doable. Seeking help, fighting against depression and time are required. Just give us a call and we will do our part.

Don’t let depression talk you out of making that call . . . it just wants to keep you to itself.

We believe that everyone, regardless of financial capacity, should have access to professional, effective and efficient clinical treatment. Our Engagement Team ensures that anyone who reaches out to us will receive support either in person or over the phone – within one business day – guaranteed. Read more about our Affordable Counselling Program.