Spotlight on Depression During Mental Health Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Two of the campaign's objectives are to inform people about mental illness and support those who may be affected. Depression has reached alarming levels in the U.S., so this week's blog explores the prevalence of depression and presents practical strategies to improve mental health. A few minutes spent reading the post could allow you to help a colleague, friend, loved one - or yourself.
Understanding the Prevalence of Depression
Depression is a widespread mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities. According to data released yesterday by Gallup, the percentage of U.S. adults who report having been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lifetime has reached 29.0%, nearly ten percentage points higher than in 2015. In addition, the percentage of Americans who currently have or are being treated for depression has also increased to 17.8%, which is up about seven points over the same period. Both rates are the highest recorded by Gallup since it began measuring depression using the current form of data collection in 2015. Stress, social isolation, trauma, genetics, and lifestyle can contribute to depression. However, individuals can take charge of their mental health and work towards wellness and recovery.
Strategies for Dealing with Depression
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends the following tips to manage depression, in addition to psychiatric treatment and therapy:
- Get active! Thirty minutes of brisk physical activity daily is ideal, but even 10 to 15 minutes a day can help. Depression can limit activity but try to push through it.
- Nourish your body! Eat well-balanced meals and avoid high-sugar, high-fat, processed foods and alcohol.
- Sleep! Too much sleep is not good for depression, but getting enough sleep is essential for the mind and body.
- Journal! Write down recurring negative thoughts or feelings. Writing helps with personal expression and allows you to identify any distorted thinking and maladaptive behaviors.
- Challenge your thinking! Are your distortions true? Or do they just feel real? Are you taking into account the evidence? Does it help to think this way?
- Limit rumination! Excessively rehashing thoughts, memories, or moments in time are a part of depression. Try being more aware when it happens and redirect yourself by thinking or doing something more helpful.
- Set realistic goals! Rather than tackle a goal on a large scale, break it down so it is smaller and more manageable. Celebrate micro-successes and build on them.
- Reduce procrastination! Try to do things a little at a time rather than avoid tasks altogether. This can promote a sense of accomplishment and self-efficacy.
- Avoid the big decisions! Contemplating or acting on major life decisions should be avoided until your cognitive and decision-making abilities are sharper.
- Engage in healthy, joyful activities! Try to enjoy the small things like listening to a good song, reaching out to a friend, dancing in your own space, or having a cup of tea.
- Stay connected! It may feel hard but keep friends and family close. Try to explain what you are experiencing and how they can help. Know you are not alone.
- Practice self-compassion! Being harsh or overly critical is not helpful; give yourself some grace and kindness.
Depression is a prevalent mental health condition, but it's not inevitable. We can all take proactive steps toward improving mental well-being, so let's continue to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and support each other on the journey to better mental health.
Resources Used to Produce this Post:
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression/tips
- Chat GPT
- Gallup: https://news.gallup.com/poll/505745/depression-rates-reach-new-highs.aspx
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Health-Awareness-Month