Shhh! The silent issue that continues to be swept under the rug that is leading us to the grave…
It’s most commonly known that high blood pressure or hypertension is considered to be one of the leading silent killers. However, there is another silent killer that is far often not discussed, disclosed, or even acknowledged—mental illness. In April, we learned of a German co-pilot who suffered from major depression and suicidal tendencies that deliberately crashed a plane killing him along with 150 passengers. In 2014, the news broke that actor Robin Williams completed suicide after suffering from manic-depression. Whitney Houston’s death was strongly speculated to be a suicide, and now her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, has passed of a similar fate proving how harmful the cycle of silence can be. These are just a few people we know that suffered in silence, however about one third of the population suffers from depression in some form and it often goes untreated and worsens over time.
Depression is something that can impact your sleep, eating habits, ability to function with friends and family, and even your ability to attend work or school when it is severe enough. Major Depression is considered the number one major illness within the mental health sector. Experiencing depression contributes to disability adjusted life years (DALYs) which results to number of years loss due to the illness, disability, or premature death. Often those who are depressed don’t speak up; instead, they brood over their issues and concerns. You can only imagine how this impacts one’s physical health—this sounds like a slow silent death to me. There has been increasing evidence regarding the co-morbidity of physical illness and that of depression and or other mental health issues. According to National Institute of Mental Health approximately 15 to 17% of people will suffer from a Major Depression in their life time. If the first Major Depressive episode goes untreated, it has a much higher prevalence of repeating again.
Although Depression is so pervasive, Depression is often misunderstood. Most assume that if they are not lying in the bed all day and/or sad and crying everyday then they probably are not depressed. There are varying scales and diagnoses for depression and are displayed differently depending on the severity, the person’s environment and even age. For example, depressive symptoms can show up in children as agitation, irritability, yelling, verbal aggression, and even physical aggression. Depression in adults can also be seen as symptoms of irritability, but most often may be present in weight gain or loss, low-self esteem, feelings of hopelessness, and lack of impetus for previously pleasurable activities. Many people who suffer from lower-grade level of depression are going to work daily, interacting with others, and still functioning as "normal" but a closer observation of their behaviors will reveal a decline in their healthy sense of self and a lack of motivation for most activities outside of work. This type of depression is called Dysthymia and individuals will meet criteria for this diagnosis if symptoms described above have been present for at least 2 years. People with this diagnosis most often go years and years without professional help because the symptoms are subtle and not overt, however treatment is still necessary.
Mental illness isn’t a death sentence, but staying silent and not seeking help can make living with a mental illness very difficult. If you or a loved one is battling with depression, there are outlets that can greatly alleviate its negative impacts. Therapy is a great place to start to gain clarity and take control over your happiness. Although mental illness can be a silent killer, those who suffer should not be. Seeking help is always recommended, even if you feel your experiences aren’t “that bad,” investing in your future happiness is important. The Dalai Lama once said “Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions.” Once you’ve broken the cycle of silence, you will be on your way to living a healthy, happier life.