Diagnosis of Depression
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI): to be diagnosed with depression, a person must have experienced a major depressive episode that has lasted longer than two weeks. Diagnosing depression can be complicated because a depressive episode can be part of bipolar disorder or another mental illness. How a person describes symptoms often depends on the cultural lens he/she looks through in life. Research has shown that African Americans and Latinos are more likely to be misdiagnosed, so people who are diagnosed with depression should look for a health care professional who understands their background and shares their expectations for treatment.1
Treatment for Depression
Depression, even the most severe cases, can be treated. The earlier that treatment can begin, the more effective it is. Depression is usually treated with medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.2 Brain stimulation therapies, light therapies, exercise, alternative therapies (acupuncture, meditation, and nutrition), self-management strategies and education, and mind/body/spirit approaches are also treatment options for depression.3
For more information and detail on treatments for depression, click on the following link to NAMI’s treatment page. Please also click here to learn more about the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) warning for antidepressant usage in people under the age of 25.
College Students with Depression—(much applicable to high schoolers and middle schoolers)
The National Institute of Mental Health directs:
If you have symptoms of depression that are getting in the way of your ability to function with your studies or social life, ask for help. Depression can get better with care and treatment. Don’t wait for depression to go away by itself or think you can manage it all on your own, and don’t ignore how you’re feeling just because you think you can “explain” it. As a college student, you’re busy-but you need to make time to get help. If you don’t ask for help, depression may get worse and contribute to other health problems, while robbing you of the academic and social enjoyment and success that brought you to college in the first place. It can lead to ‘self-medication’ with high-risk behaviors having their own serious consequences, such as binge drinking and other substance abuse and having unsafe sex.
Most colleges provide mental health services through counseling centers, student health centers, or both. Check out your college website for information. If you think you might have depression, start by making an appointment with a doctor or health care provider for a checkup. This can be a doctor or health care provider at your college’s student health center, a doctor who is off-campus in your college town, or a doctor in your hometown. Your doctor can make sure that you do not have another health problem that is causing your depression.
If your doctor finds that you do not have another health problem, he or she can discuss treatment options or refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, counselor, or psychologist. A mental health professional can give you a thorough evaluation and also treat your depression.
If you have thoughts of wishing you were dead – or of suicide, call a helpline, such as 1-800-273-TALK (8255), for a free 24-hour help, call campus security or 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.4
Click on the following link to request free publications from the National Institute of Mental Health – “Free Publications” – or to download digital versions. Available titles include: Chronic Illness and Mental Health: Recognizing and Treating Depression; Depression; Depression in Woman: 5 Things You Should Know; Men and Depression; Perinatal Depression; Teen Depression; and Seasonal Affective Disorder. Please note that many are available in Spanish.
Crisis Centers and Treatment
If You are Having Thoughts of Suicide
You should not be alone. Reach out and tell someone. Call 911 for immediate help. Call the National Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), which is a toll-free number available 24 hours a day, every day. You may call for yourself or for anyone else. All calls are confidential. You can also visit the Lifeline’s website at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org (Click here for a link to the Lifeline.)
If Someone You Know is Considering Suicide
If you know someone who is considering suicide, do not leave him or her alone. Try to get a friend or loved one to seek immediate help from his or her doctor, campus security, student health service, or local nearest hospital emergency room. Call 911 for immediate help. Remove any access he or she may have to firearms or other potential tools for suicide, including medications. You can also call to seek help as soon as possible by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Never keep a plan for suicide a secret.
The NAMI Helpline (1-800-950-6264) or info @nami.org can offer you empathy and support and provide you information about resources in your community.
It can also be helpful to call a “warmline” – a phone number where trained volunteers offer sympathy and support. To find a warmline in your area, dial 211, or go to www.211.info, for information on local social services. Please note that both of these support lines are often answered by peers living with a mental health condition who are not trained, crisis counselors.9
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Depression ↩
- The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml ↩
- National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI). Retrieved from www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Depression ↩
- The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Retrieved at https://www.nimh.nihgov/health/publications/depression-and-college-students-new/index.shtml#pub6 ↩
- American Association of Suicidology (AAS). Retrieved at https://www.suicidology.org/Resources/Crisis-Centers ↩
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Retrieved at http://www.treatment.adaa.org/ ↩
- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE). Retrieved from https://www.save.org/find-help/im-having-suicidal-thoughts/ ↩
- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE). Retrieved from https://www.save.org/find-help/im-concerned-about-someone-else/ ↩
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Retrieved from www.nami.org/Find-Support/Living-with-a-Mental-Health-Condition/What to do in a Crisis ↩