By Jill Pariera, Guest Columnist
No matter one’s race, ethnicity, age, gender identification, sexual orientation, value system, or socioeconomic status; depression does not discriminate. People from all walks of life experience the debilitating grips of this illness.
Feeling hopeless about the future, no longer experiencing joy in once-loved activities, prolonged fatigue, lack of motivation, thoughts of low self-worth, or thoughts of suicide are common symptoms of depression. Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses seen across the lifespan.
Many people with depression are embarrassed by the way they feel and distraught by distorted thoughts that are unfamiliar to them. For many, a barrier to treating depression is a fear of stigma and oppression. Some people will numb these feelings with unhealthy coping strategies such as alcohol overuse, drug use, risk-taking behaviors or social isolation. While these activities may temporarily mask symptoms, depression will become more intense if not properly treated.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, talk about it. Reach out and share your story. Let someone bear witness to your struggle and hold hope for you. You are not a burden. There is no shame in experiencing depression and asking for help. One of the most courageous things a person can do is show another their vulnerability.
If you see these behaviors in someone you know or care about, whether it be your friend, sibling, child, partner, parent or colleague, talk with them about it. It is essential to ask difficult, pointed questions while taking a nonjudgmental stance. Provide a safe space by listening and empathizing with their experience; be curious about the person.
Humans are complex beings and many mental health professionals suggest addressing the whole self by providing care to mind, body and spirit. Seeking out supportive activities such as speaking to your medical provider, participating in mental health counseling, attending meaningful social activities, exercising, engaging in nature, and practicing yoga and meditation can greatly improve symptoms of depression.
At our core, we all want to connect to other people. Depression can disrupt this connection. Be kind and treat every person with unconditional positive regard, as you never know what invisible struggle a person is experiencing.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or you can live chat at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Confidential support is available 24-7 for anyone seeking support for themselves, as well as for concerned parents, friends and caregivers, and professionals seeking consultation.
Jill Pariera graduated with a master’s degree in Social Work in 2012 from Portland State University. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Washington and Oregon. She has a long history of working with children and families, as well as chronically homeless veterans suffering from a variety of mental illnesses, and military members and their families. Jill owns Mindful Healing Counseling in Washougal, where she provides mental health counseling. She can be reached at www.mindfulhealingcounseling.com.