Understanding, seeking help for depression is key for survival

Jeanette Crusoe spends much of her professional life helping the afflicted deal with depression.

Jeanette Crusoe spends much of her professional life helping the afflicted deal with depression.

With the suicide of beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams, attention has been focused on depression, the invisible mood disorder that can severely disrupt lives.

“Suicide is not an option. Suicide is never an option. No one should have to live with that internal agony and pain and discomfort that would cause them to think that suicide is an option.”

Jeanette Crusoe, program director of the Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital Behavioral Health Program is very passionate about helping people afflicted with depression. Hearing of Williams’ death affected her deeply.

“It had to be horrible. It almost brings tears to my eyes,” she admitted.

“From time to time we all have days when we’re not feeling our best, our mood is not that great,” she said.

Chronic depression, however, is sadness that continues for a week or more and is reoccurring over months or years, she explained. There is also bi-polar disorder, characterized by radical mood swings between feeling on top of the world and being deeply sad.

“It’s one disease but two different behaviors,” explained Crusoe.

“If you are clinically (depressed) or have major depression and it has been chronic or reoccurring, I do know that one of the symptoms that often comes with that form of depression is suicidal ideations,” said Crusoe.

If not treated or only partially treated, “to some people suicide may look like a good relief from the agony and internal discomfort that major depression and reoccurring depression causes.”

Depression can be noticed when people show drastic changes in behavior, such as lack of energy, no interest in doing things that they usually do, and sleep and/or eating disorders.

Friends and family who notice these changes can talk to the victim to find out what’s going on, said Crusoe. “Talking sometimes helps a lot.”

If such behavior continues, professional help is needed, even to the point of taking the initiative, making an appointment and driving the patient to that appointment.

BWWMH has local resources such as the Geriatric Behavior Health Unit, partial day program and self-recovery program.

There still remains a stigma about mental illness, and some patients opt to seek help away from their home. The hospital, said Crusoe, “is a good place to start, to make a phone call, to ask for a referral.”

Forms of treatment vary with the type of depression and its severity. Some doctors can prescribe antidepressants. Psychotherapy is “a wonderful means of assisting and treating depression.” Crusoe continued.

In rare instances ECT, also known as shock therapy, is used. “That’s really reserved for people who are really chronically depressed to the point of life-threatening.”

Everybody that is depressed doesn’t have a substance abuse problem, but often those who are depressed begin using drugs for relief. “That becomes another issue that compounds the depression,” said Crusoe. “Depression is worsened by substance abuse, not helped.”

“Mental illness can be invisible and so can the internal pain and discomforts that people with various mental illnesses feel when they are not treated or only partially treated,” Crusoe continued.

She added that the goal of the Behavioral Health Program at the hospital is that “no one suffers with such horrendous internal agony and pain that would lead them to think that committing suicide was the best solution and the only way out of such turmoil.”

She stressed the importance that the general public be very vigilant and be able to recognize some of the most common signs of the disorder “so that we don’t have to lose another person to depression.”