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What Does The Face of Depression Look Like?

Robin Williams untimely death has surely put a spotlight on the illness of depression, a disorder which according to the National Institute of Mental Health will affect approximately 16 million people a year.

The face of depression is as varied as the people who wear it. Some of them are well known; like Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Billy Joel, Hugh Laurie, Demi Lovato, Brooke Shields, and the late newsman Mike Wallace. Some are known only to those who love them and perhaps their doctors; like our friend Todd Heitkamp’s dad Jim, my friend the late, great Todd Hauge, my grandmother, my mom and dad, both of my siblings and- -me.

Magazine cover
Suzanne DeWitte Photography

When Magaret Pennock, the writer of the lovely article which Sioux Falls Woman Magazine did on me last year, asked me in our interview, “what is something your listeners don’t know about you?”, I thought about mentioning the fact that I had been treated for depression since about 1993. But I didn’t. I’ve never discussed my issues with depression in public before, not because I was afraid of any stigma attached to the diagnosis, but because in a world where so much pain exists it seemed fairly inconsequential.

As my sisters and I discovered fairly late in life, depression can run in families like a devastating river and at times the best you can do is keep paddling.

Medication, for some, is the answer. Talk therapy works for others. A combination is the key for many. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has resurfaced as a successful treatment for depression, as it seems to cause changes in brain chemistry that can reverse severe unrelenting, treatment resistant depression in some people. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is another current therapy, (first approved in 2008) using a magnetic field to stimulate nerves in the brain, again in an effort to adjust brain chemistry and relieve the bewildering dark storm of depression.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of depression extend far beyond merely feeling sad. Some of these symptoms are: insomnia, weight gain or loss, excessive sleeping and tiredness, losing interest in things that once gave you great pleasure, even normal activities become a struggle, concentration issues and more.

If you’ve been experiencing these symptoms for an extended period or have contemplated suicide, please reach out, people who love you would do anything to keep you in this world, because it really is a short stay for all of us anyway.

For more information and help, please call the Suicide and Crisis Support line at 1-800-273-8255 or click here.

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