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Mental Wellness Awareness

Mental Wellness Awareness

Depression in the elderly is often not discussed. People mask their feelings of sadness by stating they are fine, or just a little blue. Depression does not discriminate. People of all ethnic backgrounds, economic, and educational levels can become depressed. People are often embarrassed to admit they may have depression or they may dismiss it as a normal part of aging.
Undiagnosed and untreated depression not only affects the person with the depression, but the behaviors and mood of the depressed person affect the whole family. The depressed individual's general irritability may create tension that causes conflicts and changes the way families interact. The negative thought patterns can create an atmosphere of pessimism for everyone. The depressed person may withdraw from family interactions, disrupting relationships and breeding feelings of rejection for many family members. Major family responsibilities can get displaced, creating a general burden of stress for others. What should be a period of enjoyment for the elderly and their loved ones becomes one of tension and turmoil. Everyone, from the oldest to the youngest feels the impact of depression in a family.
Growing old involves a variety of life stressors that can lead to depression due to the various life transitions that the elderly experience. Retirement, chronic health problems or disability, financial insecurity, loss of driving privileges and lack of independence, and serious illness or loss of a lifelong friend or loved one, all can lead to depression. Depression is not a normal part of aging, despite these problems and many older people report satisfaction with their daily lives. However, depression can be a widely under-diagnosed and under-treated medical condition.
Ask yourself if you feel:
* guilty or worthless
* nervous or "empty"
* very tired and slowed down
* you don't enjoy things the way you used to.
* restless or irritable
* like no one loves you
* like life is not worth living
Or if you are:
* sleeping more or less than usual
* eating more or less than usual
* having persistent headaches, stomach aches, or chronic pain
These may be signs of depression, a treatable medical illness and there are treatment options available. Trained professionals in numerous settings diagnose and treat clinical depression. Family physicians, clinics, and health maintenance organizations can provide medical treatment for depression, or make referrals to appropriate mental health treatment providers. Medication and talk groups have been helpful for many people who are depressed. Locally, you can contact The Washington County Mental Health Authority, 301-739-2490, to inquire about an appropriate referral for depression treatment.

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