When we get an earache, we call the doctor. If we fall and break our arm we might go to the emergency room. When we get a toothache we head to the dentist. But what about when we have symptoms that aren’t so obvious? What about all those symptoms we feel and no one can see? Our mental health plays a key role in our overall health and can directly affect all other areas of our life. Have you ever noticed when you are just in a funk and you don’t feel good, with a headache and no energy? And how on days when your outlook is good, you feel great, like you can conquer the world? Those are all examples of how our mental health can affect our total wellness. Your health is important and that includes your mental health.

For some people they can have a bad day here or there and they just seem to pop out of it but that isn’t true for everyone. The brain can fire differently and for some people persistent feelings continue long past just a bad day or two. For some, feelings of sadness and hopelessness can linger. They may also start to lack interest in doing most activities, including those they once enjoyed. They may find there is a decrease or increase in appetite accompanied by extreme weight loss or weight gain. They could also start sleeping too much or too little, or always feel restless. These symptoms are all signs of depression.

Depression is a real disease that according to www.healthline.com, 350 million people worldwide suffer from. In the U.S. 16 million people have had at least one episode of major depression (in a 2012 study). Depression can affect any gender or race, and it doesn’t care where you come from or how much money you make. Depression has been linked to genetic factors, but there are also those who do not have depression in their family who find themselves trying to cope with this disorder.

Depression is a real thing and with proper treatment can be managed. Treatment can come in a variety of ways, including but not limited to, therapy, medications, light therapy and other lifestyle changes. It is noted that a combination of talk therapy and medication such as antidepressants seem to work better, especially for long-term success. But like any other illness, you can’t treat it until you know what you need to treat. What is showcased in one patient may be very different from another. Anyone having recurring symptoms, be it physical or emotional, should seek professional advice to see what the culprit is. All health problems deserve proper diagnosis and care.

Depression can be a deadly disease, especially if untreated. Depression can cause a greater risk for abusing alcohol and drugs, and people with depression are also more likely to self-harm and/or attempt suicide. A person with depression can be in such an unhealthful state that they make decisions they wouldn’t otherwise make. Undiagnosed and untreated depression can be dangerous for the patient and at times for those around them.

How do we help those who may be struggling with depression, or how can you help yourself if you are recognizing some of these things in your own life? Diagnosis. Seeking a proper diagnosis and following through with treatment is important for all health concerns. Any disease that goes undiagnosed can be dangerous. Depression can cause an otherwise healthy person to lack proper and basic care of themselves leading to other health problems.

If you are looking for mental health help you can call your healthcare provider, seek out a counselor or call Northeast Kingdom Human Services at 334-6744 to work on finding out why you may be feeling the way you are. Mental health isn’t just about choosing to be happy or choosing to move on. If it were that simple there wouldn’t be millions of people worldwide looking to beat depression. Talking with your healthcare provider or mental health professional isn’t weird and it isn’t taboo. Do your best to share all you are feeling, your concerns and your questions. The more you share the more you can help them help you.

If you are battling depression or any other mental health disorder, you aren’t alone, and you matter! For those who have friends and/or family battling a mental health illness, be supportive, loving and patient. Research shows that anyone of us could find ourselves with depression at one time or another. No one is immune to mental health illnesses. May is National Mental Health month and a valuable time to break down the walls and stigma that may surround mental health issues. Depression, anxiety, PTSD and eating disorders are all mental health illnesses, not weaknesses.