How Does Depression Affect Veterans
Some people are born depressed, and some people develop depression as a result of the experiences theyve had. While some veterans have experienced depression before their enlistment, others develop depression as a result of what theyve been through during and after their period of service. Approximately 12 percent of veterans in the US report elevated levels of depression or anxiety, according to a study done at the Stanford University School of Medicine
Military service comes with a cost to mental health. Not just because of the risk of bodily harm, but also because of the long hours and responsibilities that come with it. Many in the military feel hesitant to seek help for the mental stress that they experience, because of an assumption that theyll seem weak or that theyre letting their fellow service members down if they see a medical professional.
This burden doesnt become any lighter after separation from the service. When they lose the rigid routine and common camaraderie of serving in the armed forces, many veterans feel like theyve been set adrift. As a result, they can struggle to find a new meaning in their civilian lives. After spending years with a clearly defined mission and responsibilities, it becomes easy to feel unmotivated and purposeless without that central focus.
How Is Depression Treated
Depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression respond well to treatment. Almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms.
Before a diagnosis or treatment, a health professional should conduct a thorough diagnostic evaluation, including an interview and possibly a physical examination. In some cases, a blood test might be done to make sure the depression is not due to a medical condition like a thyroid problem. The evaluation is to identify specific symptoms, medical and family history, cultural factors and environmental factors to arrive at a diagnosis and plan a course of action.
Brain chemistry may contribute to an individuals depression and may factor into their treatment. For this reason, antidepressants might be prescribed to help modify ones brain chemistry. These medications are not sedatives, uppers or tranquilizers. They are not habit- forming.
Antidepressants may produce some improvement within the first week or two of use. Full benefits may not be seen for two to three months. If a patient feels little or no improvement after several weeks, his or her prescriber may alter the dose of the medication or add or substitute another antidepressant. In some situations other psychotropic medications may be helpful. It is important to let your doctor know if a medication does not work or if you experience side effects.
Self-help and Coping
What Are Common Symptoms Of Depression
Initiating a set of self-care strategies early on can help lessen the impact of some of the most common symptoms of depression. In order for that to be possible, however, being able to identify the onset of symptoms is key.
Unfortunately, many people dont realize theyre suffering from depression until it has drastically affected their daily lives. With just a little bit more education, awareness, and understanding, it can be easier to see the signs early on.
Common symptoms of depression can include some of the following:
- Changes in sleep patterns either difficulty sleeping or sleeping far too much
- Feeling continually exhausted or fatigued
- A regular lack of energy
- Suffering from body aches and pains without good reason
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating on a single task
- Appetite changes either eating very little or too much accompanied by a noticeable weight loss or weight gain
- Sudden loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
- An increase in drug or alcohol use to cope with depression symptoms
- Suicidal thoughts and ideations
Some symptoms of depression may be easier to identify than others, but its important to be aware of them. For instance, 21 percent of people who have a substance use disorder also battle depression, according to SAMHSA. In other words, both conditions can actually make the other worse.
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World Maternal Mental Health Day 2021 Starts In
World Maternal Mental Health Day draws attention to essential mental health concerns for mothers and families. Life changes around pregnancy make women more vulnerable to mental illness. The negative cycle of poverty and mental illness impact on a womans ability to function and thrive. This may also directly affect her foetus or child, with long-lasting physical, cognitive and emotional outcomes. Mental health care provides the necessary support to empower women to identify resources and personal capabilities. This can enhance their resilience to difficult life circumstances and support them to nurture their children optimally. Caring for mothers is a positive intervention for long-term social development.
National Childrens Mental Health Awareness Week
The first week of May is also devoted to giving a voice to children that suffer from mental health conditions. The National Institute of Health reports that half of lifetime cases of mental illness start by the age of 14.
A useful toolkit for this awareness event is provided by the National Federation of Families for Childrens Mental Health.
Learn more about Childrens Mental Health Awareness Week.
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International Overdose Awareness Day
In its 17th year, August 31st is set aside to remember those who lost their lives as a result of a drug overdose and for survivors to share their stories, in hopes of preventing more unneeded deaths.
The Overdose Awareness Day website provides resources and educational materials for people to learn more about this ongoing issue.
Calendar Of Health Promotion Days
The calendar features health awareness:
Events marked with an asterisk take place on the same day every year.
These events are either promoted by recognized health organizations or recognized in the professional health community. Not all websites and events listed are celebrated or endorsed by Health Canada.
You can submit a health promotion awareness event for 2021 on behalf of your organization. Events are removed from the calendar once the date has passed, unless you mention next year’s event. If your annual event was removed, you can submit it again when the next occasion is announced.
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Getting Help During Depression Awareness Month
A major barrier to mental health treatment continues to be that mental health facilities require clients to be sober upon enrollment. This rejects anyone who is currently struggling with substance abuse and makes it more difficult for those with drug addiction issues and mental health issues to get sober and stay sober. And an important message during Depression Awareness Month is that depression often affects all areas of life, including substance use.
At Heros Mile addiction treatment center, our veteran rehab program incorporates a complete treatment plan that addresses all of the unique needs of each individual. Heros Mile comprehensive treatment options include:
This May Be A Bold Statement To Make But Everyone Can Relate To Feelings Of Depression
Weve all gone through difficult times. And when you have children your mettle is tested beyond measure. It can be downright disheartening to get up day after day wondering where that damn light at the end of the tunnel is.
Feelings of depression that last less than a few weeks or so are normal, Im told. Talking through your stuff can be a really helpful way to get back on track and may be all you need to feel the veil lift so you can get back to enjoying your life.
But when youre feeling helpless and overwhelmed because your world has been turned upside down by your newborn and your hormones are taking a stand, the feelings can turn dark. What makes it worse is that youre probably sleep deprived. And your primary relationship with your partner may be strained. It can seem hopeless.
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Why Depression Awareness Month Is Important For Veterans
Depression affects 322 million people around the world. In the US, over 17 million adults experience depression each year, and many additional cases of depression go unreported. To help raise public awareness about the problem of depression, behavioral health advocates participate in Depression Awareness Month each October.
With the coronavirus pandemic, massive job loss, and widespread financial insecurity, the risk of depression and anxiety is more prevalent than ever in the US. According to a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one third of Americans have reported symptoms of anxiety and depression since the pandemic began. And veterans face unique mental health risks. So now more than ever, its important for military personnel to examine their mental well-being.
National Depression Screening Day
With events hosted on college campuses, military bases and in communities around the country, this event takes place during Mental Illness Awareness Week.
Volunteers offer optional depression screening tools for those who want it and provide information and resources for private screenings at Help Yourself. Help Others.
Learn more about National Depression Screening Day.
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What Can I Do To Honor Anxiety Awareness Month
Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
Anxiety Awareness Month falls under Mental Health Awareness Month, which has been celebrated in the United States since 1949. Mental Health Awareness Month is an important event to honor because it affects so many people. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in every five people will experience some type of mental illness at some time in their lives.
Terms like mental illness, mental health, and anxiety carry a bit of stigma with them. The reality is that we all have mental health. Just like physical health, some days we enjoy better mental health than other days. On the days when your mental health is good, you feel comfortable and at ease with yourself. You have positive feelings about other people, and you feel totally capable of meeting the demands of daily life. In comparing it with physical health, sometimes our mental health needs some attention to bring it to a healthier state.
Many people take feeling mentally healthy for granted. Daily stressors can build up and steal our joy any day of the week. Mental Health Month is the best time of year to remind yourself to focus on feeling your overall best.
How to Increase Mental Health Awareness During Mental Health Month
Mental Health Awareness Month is a good time to learn a new craft or skill. Learning something new helps to renew your mind and get your brain in good working order.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is anxiety a mental illness?
Women And Mental Health
Although post-partum depression is a mental health disorder solely diagnosed in women, both depression and anxiety are more common among women than men. It is not clear why mental health disorders are more common in women however, it is known that discrimination and trauma are prevalent among females. Both of these play a role in the development of mental health disorders. Research has shown that half of the women have experienced trauma in their lives, and one in four women have experienced sexual assault. The challenges of gender discrimination and the mistreatment of women are critical components in female mental health.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Depression
Regardless of the cause, living with depression is incredibly difficult and painful. For many people, the disorder becomes a destructive mental and physical cycle. The symptoms of depression can include:
- Excessive feelings of worthlessness and guilt, sadness and hopelessness
- The loss of interest in activities or hobbies once enjoyed
- Difficulty making even simple decisions
- Restlessness and insomnia
- Weight loss and weight gain
- Suicidal thoughts or a suicide attempt
Depression also increases a persons risk of a dual diagnosis, sometimes called co-occurring disorders, which is mental illness coupled with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Its entirely understandable why a person suffering from untreated or undiagnosed depression would turn to intoxicative substances. Its not a weakness.
In fact, its a subconscious awareness that the body and mind need to be medicated, though alcohol and drug abuse will only worsen the symptoms of depression.
Treatment for people with a dual diagnosis requires both issues be addressed at the same time.
Counseling and therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy , have shown to be extremely effective in the treatment of addiction and depression.
Depression Awareness Month also includes Mental Illness Week and National Depression Screening Day, which offer yet more resources for everyone to educate, elevate and participate in reducing the stigma and increasing support for people struggling with mental illness.
Symptoms Of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are much like those of major depression, except they begin to fade when things warm up. If they do not, individuals should seek the proper channels of help. Anyone who has a history of major depression should take seasonal affective disorder seriously. Symptoms of the disorder can involve:
- An uncharacteristic change in moods
- A loss of interest
- Changes in eating habits
- A struggle to concentrate
- Questioning ones self-worth
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The Link Between Depression And Addiction
Substance abuse and addiction are increasingly common issues among the veteran population. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has found that one in 15 veterans struggle with a substance use disorder.
Many veterans who feel like they shouldnt seek treatment for their mental health issues turn to drug use as a way to self-medicate and get through daily life. They think that they simply use their drug of choice to relax, without realizing that the only time they feel relief from the symptoms of depression is when theyre intoxicated. This is an important facet of depression to be aware of during Depression Awareness Month.
Self-medicating leads to developing a reliance on substance abuse that can be harmful to your health and personal life. And often, this worsens the underlying co-occurring disorder of depression or service-related PTSD. Mental illnesses that co-occur with addiction should always be handled together, rather than separately, but it can be difficult to find veteran-focused addiction treatment centers that offers comprehensive treatment.
The Science Behind Seasonal Depression
The Mayo Clinic attributes three main causes to the development of seasonal depression: the circadian rhythm is disrupted, which oftentimes occurs with decreased sunlight in the winter months, a decrease in serotonin, the neurotransmitter that affects emotions and moods, or the common culprit: an imbalanced level of melatonin.
The outside is often darker, colder, and the days are shorter in the winter. Less exposure to sunlight has a major effect on people cognitively, as these conditions cause the brain to produce an excess of melatonin. Melatonin is the natural sleep hormone we create that influences our moods and energy levels. Around 9 at night, it is released from the pineal gland in our brains into our bloodstream, which creates the groggy, sleepy feeling around the time a person generally goes to bed. Melatonin is mainly triggered by light, which is why people who struggle to fall asleep are encouraged to maintain darker environments in the evenings, limit their blue light exposure, maintain a routine sleep schedule, and sometimes take an artificial melatonin supplement. When there is less light to wake up to in the winter, melatonin does not stop production as quickly, which leads to overproduction and the familiar feeling of fatigue throughout the day.
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Other Effective Treatment Methods For Depression Include:
1. Counseling or Therapy
Counseling or psychotherapy can be very effective for treating depression and overcoming regular symptoms.
This often includes treatment approaches like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy along with one-on-one therapy and even family counseling if appropriate.
2. Antidepressants and Medications
Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or antipsychotic medications may be used to improve a persons brain chemistry that causes many of the symptoms of depression.
The best approach for some people is to use antidepressant medications combined with counseling and therapy.
Believe or it not, exercise is an incredibly powerful treatment tool for reducing the symptoms of depression. Getting regular exercise not only builds strength and endurance, but it helps the body work off excess stress that often leads to depression.
In addition, exercise releases feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine that help regulate and stabilize mood.
4. Healthy Nutrition
Proper healthy nutrition, meaning a diet filled with fresh vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins like fish and chicken, provide energy that doesnt spike and then plummet, which can exacerbate many of the issues of depression.
Some healthy foods also promote serotonin and other neurotransmitters that make us feel happy and keep the blues away.
5. Alternative Activities for Depression
Getting Involved In Depression Awareness Month
During Depression Awareness Month, people can participate by sharing educational materials on depression with their family and friends. You can share content online or discuss the topic of depression in person. Additionally, you can share resources for people who may be experiencing depression, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s hotline. People who may be experiencing depression or other mental health issues can speak with a trained professional 24/7 for support at 1 662-4357.
It is important to note that intense stigma often surrounds the experience of depression and depression treatment. By discussing depression with your friends and family, your loved ones may feel more comfortable talking about the issue themselves. Also, if a friend or a family member suffers from depression themself, lessened stigma surrounding depression may make them more willing to seek treatment.
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Substance Use And Mental Health Awareness Events Calendar
Millions of Americans are touched by substance use and mental health issues every single day. People in the throes of conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction and many others are often in great pain and see no way out of their situation.
Friends, family members and colleagues also suffer. Often, they see the symptoms of these issues before anyone else and struggle to find help for their loved one.
Because of the stigma associated with mental health and addiction issues, people who know theyre suffering are often frozen with fear and shame. As a result, they decide not to ask for help and sink further into hopelessness.
However, with treatment, many people make a full recovery. The key is to know where and how to find the right help. The good news is that there are countless agencies and organizations dedicated to educating people and helping those in need find the resources and treatment they deserve, all with expertise and compassion.
Below is a list of substance use and mental health awareness events by month that provides useful information and tools so everyone can live a better life.