There is help available for

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 6, 1999

depression sufferers


Published Oct. 6, 1999

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Thursday, Oct. 7, free anonymous screenings for depression will be available at numerous Alabama sites as part of National Depression Screening Day nationwide.

Health professionals will provide a test and information with suggestions for where to go for help. The national screening site number is 1-800-573-4433.

Screenings sites in Montgomery are Stabler Memorial Hospital Senior Care at 334-382-2676, ext. 2247; Grandview Behavioral Mental Health 334-409-9263; and the Montgomery County Mental Health Association at 334-262-5500. Information is also available at East Central Mental Health in Pike County at 566-6022.

Perhaps it’s quite impossible to appreciate the danger of clinical depression unless you’ve been there or had a loved one living in the blackness that insidiously creeps over a person until hope is an unknown thing.

Depression is a sneaky illness, one that can begin as a perfectly natural period of mourning, a case of the blues, or appear out of nowhere and seemingly without reason.

But when those things begin to define one’s life and actions over a period of time, intervention is needed. Just as a cancer eats away healthy tissue, so does depression rob a person of any feelings of self-worth, and as he spirals downward into the blackness, he may become convinced that it would be better for everyone if he were to die.

Recently a chilling conversation brought my own bouts of depression home to me again. "Children can get over a parent who commits suicide," a woman told me. "They can go on with their lives without watching their mother disappear little by little until there is nothing left. It will take time for them to recover, but sometimes the death of someone is the only answer."

Depression does seem to erase the person slowly, eroding the very things which made the person what she is … a fastidiously groomed woman no longer cares if her hair is clean or even if her grandbaby comes to visit … the wise father with no energy for interacting with his family, walking with a shuffle and holding his chin to his chest, never looking into the blue eyes of the woman he loves … the child acts out in school as if to convince everyone he is a bad kid and unworthy of his teacher’s good intentions … an elderly woman becomes housebound and forgets to eat.

These are all depressed people who are struggling to remain above the drowning pool their illness has created. Each day depression goes untreated it not only robs families of the person they love, but robs the patient of the physical and mental energy to get better.

Sick people cannot make healthy decisions and the dying hope for relief becomes just an unreal longing for the pain to go away at any cost. Sometimes, too many times, the patient decides to give in to that longing.

Please know there is help. The National Depression Day Screening Project has come up with a short test to tell if a person is at risk. Answer yes or no to the following:

1. I am unable to do the things I used to do.

2. I feel hopeless about the future.

3. I cannot make decisions.

4. I feel sluggish, restless.

5. I am gaining or losing weight.

6. I get tired for no reason.

7. I am sleeping too little or too much.

8. I feel unhappy.

9. I think about killing myself.

If you answered yes to five or more of the questions, and you have felt this way every day for several weeks, there is a good chance you are suffering from clinical depression and you should see a psychiatrist or other health care professional.

If you answered yes to No. 9. you should seek help immediately regardless of your answers to any of the other questions. Depression can be treated with amazing results.

There is no need for anyone to suffer without treatment. If you are a risk or you fear a loved one is unable to act on his own behalf, do not stop trying to get help. You could save a life.

Fran Sharp is a freelance writer living in Alabaster. E-mail