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Depression Awareness: Get a Screening, Get Help

Oct. 11, 2011 | By taniameireles2
Returning Service members, wounded warriors, veterans and their families and caregivers may be susceptible to feelings of depression. They have been through traumatic and emotional experiences and sometimes it is difficult for them to come to terms with those experiences and feelings. Studies have also shown that Service members who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are more likely to have symptoms of depression, even years after their injury. The Military Departments and Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have been battling the notion of stigma some Service members, veterans and families feel in asking for help. They may feel it is a sign of weakness, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth—asking for help is a sign of strength. It shows that you want to live a happy life, you want the same for your family, and you’re not going to let anything stop you from achieving what you and your family deserve. Depression is a common and treatable medical condition that if left unrecognized, can lead to behavioral health issues and possibly suicidal thoughts. Depression involves a person’s body, mood and thoughts, and it affects the way a person eats and sleeps and feels about oneself and things. Because people are inherently different, each person can experience varying symptoms of depression. In general, symptoms of depression may include:
  • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs or tobacco
  • Decreased energy or increased fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Trouble sleeping, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms; such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain
October marks Depression Awareness Month and National Depression Screening Day on October 6. Because depression is not uncommon during or after the holiday season, which is right around the corner, it is an opportune time to get a depression screening and/or visit a health care provider. Preparing for the holidays, the increased expectations of family and friends, the sadness of not having a loved one present, the pressure of financial constraints, or having to say good-bye after a holiday reunion, can contribute to symptoms of depression. Military Pathways® offers an anonymous and voluntary military behavioral health screening program. The screening questions are designed to allow Service members, veterans and family members to review their situation with regard to some common behavioral health issues. The screening will not provide a diagnosis, but it will provide guidance on whether or not symptoms would benefit from further evaluation or treatment. It will also provide information on where to get assistance. The earlier depression is detected and treated, the less likely it is to develop into a more serious issue that can impact a person’s career, health and relationships. Delay in identifying depression often leads to needless suffering for everyone involved. However, appropriate treatment can help most people who have depression. If you or a loved one is showing symptoms of depression, try a screening or get a physical examination by a physician to rule out other possible causes for the symptoms. Treatment choices will depend on the diagnosis, severity of symptoms and preference. A variety of treatments, including medications and short-term psychotherapies (i.e., "talking" therapies), have proven effective for depression. There are many depression resources available, visit the Military Pathways® or the National Resource Directory for listings.