Re-imagine Series: Depression

Monday, May 3, 2021, by Ruth Dwyer

 

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.

Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

– Marie Curie

Problem: Depression—lack of early detection leads to lost potential for individuals and society.

New Tech Implications:

  • Developments in sound recognition is promising for early diagnosis.
  • Telemedicine provides a convenient way for many patients to receive care that they would not otherwise engage with.

Change Hypotheses:

  • New technology available to help people self-diagnose mental illnesses virtually
  • Help doctors diagnose during visits
  • Increased publicity on how to treat early
  • New medications

Dream:

  • Everyone will have depression and anxiety diagnosed at its earliest stage
  • Increased healthy lifestyles
  • Decreased substance use
  • Increased productivity for the world

Marie Curie’s quote shown above points to so many truths. Today, I would like us to think about how the stigma attached to depression keeps us from knowing more about it. This lack of insight into an individual’s pain not only creates a bigger problem for that person, but also a big problem for the world.

Depression affects over 300 million people suffering from depression worldwide. Almost 800,000 people die by suicide a year*, AND IF treated early 80% and 90% of people with depression respond quickly to treatment and gain some relief from their symptoms within 4-6 weeks on a medication and/or therapy regimen**

Challenge Questions- What can we do?

Start at home:

  • Early detection
  • Ask these questions of yourselves and share them with you family/friends.
    • How are you feeling? When was the last time you went outside? Had fun?
    • Are you eating and sleeping regularly?
    • How do you feel about yourself? do you ever feel like hurting yourself?
    • How are things going with your friends?  Do you ever think they would be better off without you?

If these questions prompt a yes, please do not ignore them. Rather, look for information from trusted sources on the internet, talk to your doctor, a counselor, or call a helpline, and be sure you are safe.

Reflect more on safety with these questions:

  • What medications do you have in your house? Who can get to them?
  • Is there anything else in your home that could be used for self-harm?

Think local:

  • How are you, your family, and friends doing?
  • Is there someone who you have not heard from recently
  • If you have a business, where are our employee pain points?
  • Is there a way you can add- healthy habits into the workday?
  • Is there a way of serving customers that improves their social interaction/lifestyle?
  • Are there ways it can be modified to fit more or different needs?
  • Is it possible that the person that drives you nuts is driving you nuts due to a mental health concern? If so, how can you modify your interactions with them, to improve things?
  • Is there an appropriate place to post a hotline number for people to see?

Go Global:

  • How do you interact with the wider world?
  • Could you post a message of encouragement during National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week (May 18-23)?
  • Where are your financial investments?  Does your portfolio reflect your beliefs in how to promote a healthy lifestyle?

My response to the challenge:

Over the years, I cannot count the number of children I’ve know whose lives have been affected by a family member’s depression, anxiety, or their evil triplet substance use. It is a problem that is almost always more convenient not to deal with in the short term. Like many things, however, ignoring it makes it worse. In fact, this is true more for depression than most of the medical illnesses I’ve helped treat.

As we enter the spring of our year with COVID, take stock of yourselves and those you know.  Seek help if you are currently worried about someone in your circle. I do not have an answer for coping with the devastation in any of your personal lives that depression and substance use have produced other than to again encourage you to find the energy and courage needed to seek professional help as needed.

My dream for how to impact depression and anxiety is both smaller and larger. It is smaller because I dream of minimizing its effects through early detection. It is larger because before people will accept a diagnosis or seek treatment any stigma associated with it must be eradicated. Larger, because attitudes are hard to change. As with most things the answers lay within each of us. I encourage you to become informed and challenge any assumptions you hold that do not fit the facts, or the kind of person you want to be.

The world has big problems, and everyone is needed to re-imagine solutions that meet the needs these problems create. We can’t move forward if we do not understand what forward looks like. Please help by sharing this post and engaging below.

I look forward to our conversation,

Ruth Dwyer, MD, FAAP

PS:

– Did you know April is stress awareness month?  Or that Depression Awareness Week is May 18-23? (As a student, this seems especially well placed for me, if only I had time to acknowledge it:)

– Did you know that in the US on the last Saturday in April The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been hosting the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day each year since 2010? (if you missed it this month- don’t stress over it they will do it again next October.)*. This is a great way to decrease people’s access to something that could be deadly. –It is especially important to think about if you have a teenager, they share.

( https://www.inspiremalibu.com/blog/news/national-prescription-drug-take-back-day/)

* Torres, Felix. “What Is Depression?” American Psychiatric Association, 2020, www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression.

**Bach, Natasha. “World Mental Health Day 2017: Illness in the Workplace Is More Common Than You Might Think.” Fortune, World Health Organization, 10 Oct. 2017, fortune.com/2017/10/10/world-mental-health-day-2017-workplace-depression-anxiety.

Author

Ruth Dwyer

Ruth Dwyer

Senior Project Manager

Dr. Ruth Dwyer. MD,  serves as the Senior Project Manager for the International Council for Small Business (ICSB).

Pivoting pediatrician interested in social entrepreneurship, small businesses, and the SDGs. Ruth has worked on numerous medical startups. She enjoys painting, playing games, shooting hoops, and time with my family.