Written by Annie Lindgren, for North Forty News

The weight of depression and its related symptoms can affect our personal, professional, and financial lives and those of our loved ones, family, and friends. It can creep in unexpectedly due to situations or can reside there as part of our biological make-up. Fortunately, there is relief and help.

Depression is a common mental disorder. According to the World Health Organization, depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. More than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. It often co-occurs with other illnesses, both physical and mental. It is the cause of over two-thirds of reported suicides. 

Typical symptoms of depression include

  • feeling down or hopeless,
  • finding little interest or pleasure in doing things you were interested in before,
  • having trouble with sleep,
  • appetite changes,
  • trouble concentrating,
  • suicidal thoughts, or
  • feeling like a failure

A person’s mood can fluctuate, and some symptoms are caused by illnesses other than depression. The holiday season, winter months for those with Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the isolating nature of COVID-19 can lead to depression. If the above symptoms impact your life for an extended period of time, it would be good to seek help. 

When things are not going well, there are many different ways that people cope. Coping is how we ‘get through the day.’ We can choose healthy coping skills, like exercise, adequate sleep, healthy eating, and scheduling social time. There are non-healthy ways of coping that are also very common. Drinking or substance use, tv and games, social media, and eating or sleeping in excess. Many of these coping skills are acceptable for the occasion, but they can become part of the problem if they happen every day or all hours of the day. If your coping skill harms your life, job, health, or relationships, it may be time for a change. 

There are many excellent treatments designed to help with depression, chosen based on severity and the most helpful to the patient’s individual needs. Therapy is a common tool in helping to work through the source of depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness, Couples Therapy, or Group Therapy are great options.

There are a lot of medications created to help with depression. Medications can restore imbalances in the body’s natural systems. A therapist can refer you to a psychiatrist, or you can talk with your primary care physician about it. Medications can be short term solutions to help you get through difficult times or long-term solutions for those suffering from more severe symptoms.

There are organizations designed to help specific populations, disorders, and mental or behavioral health needs, including websites with information to read, hotlines, and support groups. Finding support with others who understand your situation can be life-changing. Examples include Veterans, LGBTQ+, victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse, and organization for specific disorders or illnesses. 

There are many other treatment options and therapy types available that are more than just traditional talk therapy. Animal Assisted Therapy can be helpful for those more comfortable around animals. Play therapy is helpful for children, and Art Therapy is also a thing. Neurofeedback, Biofeedback, EMDR, and TMS are treatments that help train the brain to work better. There are therapies for specific disorders of all kinds. 

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a powerful tool for long-lasting results. It is commonly used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but is also helpful for depression and anxiety. EMDR helps the brain retrain itself to function normally again, and doesn’t require you to talk about your trauma. 

Fort Collins-based TMS Solutions has treatment to help with severe depression when other treatments have failed. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, teaching neurons how to fire correctly. It is safe, non-invasive, FDA approved and covered by most insurance companies. Greater than 65% of clinical patients experience complete remission, while greater than 80% of patients receive a reduction of symptoms greater than 60%.

Therapists and treatment centers have adapted to COVID-19 guidelines, providing virtual meetings and therapy options, as well as sanitary in-person sessions.  

“Up to 80% of those treated for depression show an improvement in their symptoms generally within four to six weeks of beginning medication, psychotherapy, attending support groups or a combination of these treatments,” reports the National Institute of Health.

Larimer County has a lot of great resources, enough to fill this entire newspaper. If you don’t see the help you seek, ask a provider for suggestions, or search for it on the internet.

Emotional Support: Connections COVID-19 Emotional Support line for Larimer County, available seven days a week, at 970-221-5551. They have behavioral health specialists available by phone or videoconferencing. COVID support services are available at no charge. They have a variety of services available to help with other mental health or substance use concerns.

For Suicidal Crisis: SummitStone Crisis Line at 970-494-4200 (local), Colorado Crisis Services at1-844-493-8255 (or text TALK to 38255), or call 911.

For Suicidal Assessment: Crisis Assessment Center, located in the Emergency Department of PVH/UCH, Lemay campus, 1024 S. Lemay, Fort Collins, CO, 970-495-8090.

For Education and Support around Suicide: AllianceForSuicidePrevention.org offers information about suicide, including facts, warning signs, community resources, and grief support groups, 970-482-2209. They have specific program areas for LGBTQ+, Veteran, and adult male populations. 

For Mental Health Support:

  • SummitStone offers a variety of mental health services, just call and let them know what you need: 970-221-5551.
  • healthinfosource.com lists available resources and providers in the community, including insurance information.
  • To find therapists and therapy types in the area, check out psychologytoday.com
  • NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Larimer County chapter has support groups and helpful information. 970-494-4359 or namilarimer.org
  • TMS Solutions offers TMS therapy for severe depression. 844-537-6747 or tmssolutions.com
  • Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) screening tool that helps assess the severity of a person’s depression: https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9

If I were to guess, depression is something a lot of people are experiencing right now. 2020 has been a very challenging year. As individuals, we can validate that much change and uncontrollable things have happened and that we are doing our best to cope. With that said, if depression is harming your ability to move forward, it is time to ask for help. Depression does not have to be the darkness that goes on forever. Each day brings a new opportunity for growth.

Published in September 28, 2020 edition of North Forty News: https://northfortynews.com/category/health-and-wellness/mental-health-matters-depression-and-why-you-dont-have-to-live-with-it/